JOY ROY CHOUDHURY – Guwahati
The ministry of tourism, Government of India is expecting a 20 per cent increase in foreign tourist arrivals to the north east by next year, following the recent successful hosting of International Tourism Mart in Guwahati, Assam. This is for the first time an event of this magnitude was organised by the Government of India to focus specifically on a region with an intention to transform the north east into a leading tourist destination and more significantly as an adventure tourism destination. Parvez Dewan, secretary, ministry of tourism, Government of India said, “We plan to sell north east as an adventure tourism destination.”
Altogether 80 delegates from 23 countries participated in the event and buyer-seller meet apart from domestic travel and tour operators, tourism corporations and boards of the north eastern states. JB Patnaik, governor, Assam inaugurated the mart at Guwahati’s Sarusajai Stadium in the presence of Dr K Chiranjeevi, union minister of state for tourism (Independent Charge), Government of India. Speaking on the occasion, Dr Chiranjeevi who was on his maiden visit to the region after assuming office, said the mart could become a regular feature in the north east if the states wished. He said the Centre was taking several initiatives to promote tourism in the region.
The union home ministry recently lifted the two-month gap restriction on re-entry of foreign nationals coming to India on a tourist-visa. “This relaxation will, no doubt, facilitate visitors to the country to a large extent. The north east region will also benefit from these initiatives. The ministry is committed to development and promotion of tourism in the region,” said Chiranjeevi.
He also informed that the tourism ministry was also promoting the concept of ‘film tourism’ and had exceeded the mandatory 10 per cent of the planned budget that a ministry must allocate for the north eastern region. The Centre has already sanctioned Rs 562 crore for the north east during the Eleventh Plan period. A senior official from the ministry added that the ministry of tourism plans to set up Food Craft Institutes and Culinary Institutes in different states of the north east.