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ATOAI takes the action to the North East

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Assam will be the focal point of action in the field of tourism, wherein the state is set to welcome delegates from across the globe for the ministry of tourism International Tourism Mart followed by the tenth annual convention of ATOAI (Adventure Tour Operators Association of India). The action is scheduled to unfold at Sarusajai Sports Complex in Guwahati, Assam. Amitabh Kant, CEO and managing director, Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation (DMICDC), will give the keynote address. The team at ATOAI is unanimous in their opinion that the decision to hold the convention in Assam was primarily to open up the North East as a destination to other parts of India and definitely to the world. Apart from the seven sisters that includes Assam, Sikkim and West Bengal will also be part of the promotional plan. The association hopes to promote the region as a one-stop adventure destination. It is ready to work closely with the government to give the region its due. The North Eastern terrain of India is a unique bag of mixed natural tourism products that is unexplored, hence the convention theme, namely ‘India`s Unexplored Paradise’ fits in rightly. The Government of Assam, has rendered complete support to the convention and has been instrumental in bringing the convention to the region. The ATOAI team has appreciated the work put in by the government and local authorities to ensure the success of the event.

Tejbir Singh Anand

Tejbir Singh Anand, president, ATOAI; Sanjay Basu, chairman, Convention 2013 and David Singh, co-chairman, Convention 2013, mentioned that the convention is aimed to clear doubts and myths of the North East sector and highlight the fact that the region is safe to travel as a tourist hotspot. The convention also aims to offer the travel fraternity an effective networking ground and offer a setting to help enhance one’s skills and knowledge of the region and adventure tourism in general. Anand, is convinced that the time is come to give North East its due and move a step further by working toward building a sustainable tourism product in the region. He feels that it is crucial to involve the local community who in turn will gain from tourism and help contribute to the economy. “One cannot live in isolation and it is our aim to connect the north east with other parts of India and also the globe in general. It is time to put best operational practices forward and offer a product which brings quality and standardisation in our service,” he says emphatically. He adds that there is a need to raise the bar and make India a 12 months active journey holiday destination, wherein six states can be direct beneficiaries namely – Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and the North East sector. Sustainably, SOPs, safety and ethics are the four pillars which need to be nurtured further. From hard adventure, the trend is more toward experiencing and enjoying soft adventure,” adds Anand. Ravi Kalra, vice-president, ATOAI, also feels that, the North East proves to be an interesting place for soft adventure and now is the right time to project the same. He shares an interesting fact – that Myanmar is easily accessible from where one can drive through into the country. Guwahati proves to be an effective gateway to the North East. The adventure fraternity has matured over time and from what it was in the past, Kalra feels the fraternity has come a long way.

Ravi KalraDavid SinghVikas AroraAkshay Kumar
Captain Swadesh Kumar

Captain Swadesh Kumar, founder president, ATOAI says candidly, “I want the young generation to find out new routes and adventure trails. Sabarmati – Nagaland, India and Myanmar border and will be hot selling items in the future. It is essential to research your itineraries and walk the path. Our team of ATOAI is committed towards the cause of adventure tourism and are always ready to explore new areas and unexplored paradises.” He further adds, “The trend of adventure tourism has also witnessed change over the years. From long trips and journeys of 45 days to that of just 21-23 days, tourists are opting to do shorter climbs and treks and we have to offer them all the specialities in that short duration of travel, which can be challenging.” He also hopes that tour operators will learn from each other and sharpen their skills further at the convention. Akshay Kumar, honorary secretary, ATOAI, is of the opinion that this convention will definitely bring the smaller operators of the North East in touch with the mainstream operators. It will open new areas of growth and though there is a lot that needs to be done, the beginning is made. Sharing some statistics on the convention, Vikas Arora, admisitrator, ATOAI, mentions that the convention is scheduled to attract around 100 international delegates and 300 delegates from within the country.

Amit Sankhala

Nine states will be participating. Amit Sankhala, executive committee member, ATOAI, feels that exposure to a new destination will eventually improve the facilities at the destination as there is a need felt to provide trained guides, first aid course, training the local manpower, etc. The convention in Assam will open doors of the region to new business opportunities. This will also prove to be a great opportunity to experience Kaziranga, as he feels a lot of people sell it without knowing or experiencing it. The time is right to move away from the established destinations to the untapped ones.

The Assam government is organising a North-East Tourism Carnival with cultural troupes, fashion shows, etc by all North-East States and West Bengal, to coincide with ATOAI convention within the same complex. In addition to this, a North-East Bazar is being designed with shops being set up for handicrafts of the region for delegates and buyers to take as souvenirs.

Vital to brand the Himalayas as a unique tourism product
Sanjay Basu, convention chairman of the tenth ATOAI annual convention firmly believes that the North East is a new chapter of India’s tourism and it is time to seriously position the Himalayas and the Himalayan region as a brand in itself. He feels that giving the Himalayan region its due importance will also go a long way in solving the off season summer lean tourism phase that India tourism experiences. Tourists can head to the Himalayas in the summer and also explore the surrounding regions. The lean months of April to almost September-October can be converted into regular touristic months. He believes that it is essential to build a destination by simultaneously working on it with a multi-dimensional approach and plan. Branding, accessibility, infrastructure development all go in sync. Destinations also need to be developed with a sustainable approach.

He emphasises on the unique elements of the North East region. The region is blessed with four distinctive assets, namely, the mountains, rivers, forests and tribal culture. It is essential to display and showcase these assets in an organised manner. Kaziranga is unique to the region which needs to get better air connectivity. It is under promoted and hence needs to be given further impetus. The Brahmaputra river, has its only distinct history, which is not known to the world. It offers a panorama which is special to the region. Boat safari, jeep safari and elephant safari are offered in that belt, which is worth highlighting both for the national and international clientele. The inland waterways are responsible to maintain the rivers and there is lot that can be done in the area.

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