Sylvan vistas beckon tourists

Operators discuss region’s growth & potential

Travellers’ haven
Guwahati, July 10 : The Centre is giving tourism in the Northeast a massive push by improving infrastructure and developing it as the most unique sustainable eco-tourism destination in the world, with increasing footfall in the region.
Issues concerning the tourism sector in the Northeast were discussed in a tour operator's meet today, organised by North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Limited. A total of 150 tour operators attended the meeting with the Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India bringing in 32 operators from other parts of the country.
Regional director, Union ministry of tourism, Deepa Laskar, said the region registered growth of 6.9 per cent of foreign tourists during 2010 over 2009 whereas the all-India growth is just more than 1 per cent. Similarly, it registered a growth of 8.09 per cent of domestic tourist visits to the region during 2010 over 2009 whereas the all-India growth is about 7 per cent.
The number of foreign tourists who visited Assam was 14,942 in 2009 and 15,157 in 2010. While Manipur got 337 foreign tourists in 2009 and 389 in 2010, Mizoram played host to 513 foreign tourists in 2009 and 731 in 2010.
In the domestic tourist front, Assam received 38,50,521 in 2009, which increased to 40,50,924 in 2010. Similarly, Meghalaya got 5,91,398 tourists in 2009, which went up to 6,52,756 in 2010.
The regional director said the idea was to develop the Northeast as the world’s most unique sustainable eco-tourism destination, prepare a masterplan, focus on nature, culture and religion, develop it as India’s gateway to Southeast Asia, China, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand. She said the plan included branding and marketing India’s Northeast — Paradise Unexplored in the overseas markets.
In January this year, the ministry participated in South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange in Delhi where all the states of the region were provided free stalls.
The focus will be on unique experiences at key destinations and circuits and partnering with states and private stakeholders to improve infrastructure.
Former executive director of Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation P.K. Dong said tourists would get full value for their money in the region. “Varieties of tours can be packaged. Tourist profile is changing, the market is changing, air connectivity is improving and more importantly, the government is in active mode for tourism,” he said.
In nature tourism, the region offers rich bio-diversity, virgin unexplored terrain, wildlife parks and sanctuaries, and also various avenues of adventure tourism to discerning tourists.
Similarly, in culture, the region has diverse cultural heritage, exotic tribal heritage and multi-faceted fairs and festivals for its tourists. There is ample scope for religious tourism as there is a confluence of three religions — Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity — in the region. Kamakhya and Tawang are the most sought after religious destinations.
For manpower, there is a plan to set up 25 institutes of hotel management and three foodcraft institutes in the region.
L.S. Changson, commissioner and secretary, tourism, Assam, said the focus was on developing circuits and the state was committed to the code of conduct for “safe and honourable tourism”.
“Lot of publicity is now being given using various modes of media,” she added.
Assam Tourism Development Corporation managing director S. Bhattacharjee said a mega tourism circuit covering national parks was on the anvil.
Subash Varma, president of the Association of Domestic Tour Operators of India, said they were committed to bringing more tourists to the region and there was a plan of opening chapters in the region.