SUDIPTA DEV – Mumbai
Andaman & Nicobar Administration is positioning the islands as a premiere eco-friendly tourist destination in the global market. “Our USP as an unexploited scuba diving and snorkeling destination in the world have been given a thrust and have yielded significant results. We are in the process of developing Andamans as an environmentally sustainable tourist destination keeping in mind the threats posed by tourism industry to the ecology,” said Amit Satija, director, Directorate of Tourism, Andaman & Nicobar Administration. The department has organised Dive Fests and also drawn up guidelines for registration / functioning of Dive Centres. A Decompression Chamber has also been set up in the vicinity for the benefit of the tourists. Operation of seaplane service, the first of its kind in India has also given a fillip to the image of the destination. “On accommodation front, brand names in hospitality sector are coming up with exclusive high-end resorts. Adventure water sports, organising events for entertainment for tourists, etc, have also received considerable attention of the tourists interested in island tourism,” stated Satija.
The key projects which are going to come up in the next two-three years are – two Canopy Walkways at Mount Harriet and Chidiyatapu, Yacht Marina at Viper Island with star category accommodation, development of Gallows at Viper Island as a heritage site, provision of eco- friendly cottages at various beaches, construction of musical water fountain, planetarium and an oceanarium at Port Blair. “Further, tourism circuits are going to be developed along with the provision of best of the way side amenities in the islands which are normally not much frequented by the tourists. We are also going to build a new Sound and Light show at Ross Island apart from upgrading the existing one at Cellular Jail with the state-of-the-art technology,” mentioned Satija.
In the last few years Andaman & Nicobar has seen a steady growth rate of 13 per cent in terms of tourist arrivals. The last two years have in fact seen domestic tourist arrivals grow by 20 per cent, and foreign tourists by 7-10 per cent. Satija expects more than 20,000 foreign tourists this year. “We are expecting a growth rate in tourist arrival of about 17 to 20 per cent per annum in the 12th Plan period ie 2012-2017,” he added.
The interests of both segments vary – while domestic tourists are keen to explore beaches and sightseeing, the international tourists are interested in adventure sea sports, sea walk, scuba diving, surfing, leisure tourism, rural tourism, game fishing, coastal and jungle trekking, etc. “We are in the process of changing the role of the department from being a service provider to that of a service facilitator and regulator. We are targeting every kind of tourist since Andamans being so vast has something to offer to everyone,” said Satija, not forgetting to add that to safeguard interests of arriving tourists, this year the administration is going to come up with a plan to reimburse the expenditure of the stranded tourists due to inclement weather and natural calamities.