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Meghalaya Govt to position state as high-end global destination

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Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma looks at engaging local communities in tourism initiatives

Sudipta DevShillong

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Dr Mukul Sangma

The Government of Meghalaya is making concerted efforts to position and promote the state as a high-end global tourism destination. Increase in tourist numbers is not the primary aim, the focus is on attracting upscale leisure and MICE visitors. In an interaction with Express TravelWorld, Dr Mukul Sangma, chief minister, Meghalaya affirmed, “For a small state like ours, with a population that is not too huge, we subscribe to the idea of focusing and looking at not too heavy footfall but high-end visitors. I look at coming together of people of the North East to promote the whole region as a global destination and offer visitors diverse products.” According to him, hosting an event like the recently organised Indigenous Terra Madre that brought delegates from almost 60 countries, was an excellent opportunity to reach out to a global audience who will connect to the rest of the world through word of mouth and social media about their experiences and the potentialities in the state.

Dr Sangma acknowledged that his government is looking at engaging potential stakeholders who are willing to participate in the tourism agenda. “We need to take simultaneous action of getting people motivated so that they are happy to participate in the sector. What was seen as impossible about five-10 years back by the people of the state, now seems possible,” said Dr Sangma, adding that recently the first edition of NH7 (which attracted more than 13,000 people the first day) was organised away from the hustle, bustle of the city. “The whole idea was to penetrate the rural areas and make people realise how the communities can leverage on this kind of an event and get economic benefit. That gives them an opportunity to understand the potentiality of the hospitality sector. The local youth and women were involved so the organisers understood the need to engage residents from different walks of life,” he mentioned.

Promotion of rural tourism and eco tourism are among the key focus areas. “We have also been investing substantial money to build that kind of infrastructure to promote eco tourism with communities and that has been an immense success story,” he said adding that more communities are now willing to come forward and participate. The state government has a programme supporting homestays and eco resorts.

One of the challenges has been room inventory and halls for conferences. Dr Sangma pointed out that recently a state convention centre was inaugurated. The Rs 150 crore Shillong International Centre for Performing Arts is also coming up to position the city as the destination for events in the region. The government is also developing land banks for attracting hotel investors. “In the organised sector, to attract investment in hospitality, the most important component is to create a land bank at appropriate locations. We are looking at certain locations which are ideal for high end hotels to be located. This exercise is on,” informed Dr Sangma. The state government has had initial engagement with potential partners from the hospitality sector. “The locations being looked at are away from the hustle and bustle of city, in picturesque places where multiple products (like golf resorts) can be developed,” stated Dr Sangma, adding that the state does not have too many government properties (managed by Meghalaya Tourism Development Corporation) and is not looking at marketing brownfield projects.

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