‘Tourism potential in NE amid pandemic’

‘Tourism potential in NE amid pandemic’
Conrad K Sangma (File)
Correspondent Shillong, Sep 27 | Publish Date: 9/27/2020 12:39:51 PM IST

Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma has observed that amid the pandemic situation, there is hope for the tourism industry in the scenic North Eastern Region of the country, if the opportunity is realized and utilized.

“Amidst the disruption caused by the pandemic, there is also an opportunity for Meghalaya and Northeast. India has almost 26 million outbound tourists. A large section of these will look for exotic destinations within the country. Meghalaya is one such exotic destination that will be ready to welcome a big section of these high-value tourists,” he said, even as he mentioned that that due to COVID-19 pandemic, there are travel restrictions globally and within India which has created an opportunity for the region.

Addressing a virtual World Tourism Day conclave organized by the Union Ministry for Development of Noeth Eastern Region (DoNER) on the  theme ‘Emerging Delightful Destinations’ on Sunday, Sangma spoke of the vital role tourism plays in leveraging the economy and enhancing  livelihood.

The North Eastern Council (NEC) under the DoNER organizes the event annually in different parts of the country to promote and showcase the rich cultural heritage of the North East to the rest of the country. This year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was organized virtually, which was inaugurated by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Dr Jitendra Singh, Minister of State (I/C), Ministry of DONER.

Talking on the theme of this year’s World Tourism Day –‘Tourism and  Rural Development’, the Chief Minister highlighted the tourism potential of Meghalaya that is blessed with bountiful nature, forests, waterfalls, caves, wildlife, flora and fauna.

“Our cultural heritage and traditions are deeply rooted in nature and it is in rural Meghalaya that the best of our tourist destinations are located, be it in Sohra (Cherrapunjee), Mawlynnong, Shnongpdeng or Nokrek,” Sangma said.

Informing that in 2019, Meghalaya had recorded 1.2 million tourist footfall and the tourism sector has played a pivotal role in providing direct and indirect employment to the local people, he said, “Meghalaya is one of the fastest-growing travel destinations in Northeast”.

Observing that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism in the State has been badly hit, he said that the government has prepared a roadmap to revamp the tourism sector in the State.

“The Government of Meghalaya is conscious of the impact of COVID-19  on the growing tourism industry in the state and therefore, it is crucial to plan the reopening of tourism in so that it benefits all the tourism stakeholders involved, the residents of the state and the travellers and visitors alike,” he emphasized.

He said that the State government was committed to bring in investment in the emerging tourism destinations by creating resorts and luxury tented accommodations which will revive the rural sector. “We are also investing in up-skilling the rural tourism stakeholders and we expect the mode of revenues from tourism to flow into the rural areas as we open up,” he said.

Talking about air connectivity,  the Chief Minister informed that direct flights from Delhi to Shillong will start by October end, which will further add to the growth of the tourism sector in the State.

Sangma also expressed optimism that direct flights to Shillong will also start soon from other cities like Mumbai and Hyderabad.

With the tone for the event set with the theme song “This is the land and its people” by Shillong band “Summer Salt”, the inaugural programme also witnessed choir presentations by Voice of Nagaland and Cardinal Choir from Mizoram. Minister of State Development of North Eastern Region, Dr Jitendra Singh, explained that the main aim behind the ‘Destination North East’ event was to bring the rest of India closer to the North Eastern Region.

Singh indicated that with its rich handloom and handicraft traditions, cultural heritage and high literacy rate, the North East has much to offer and was optimistic that, when the Corona pandemic eases, tourists who were earlier holidaying in Europe would flock to the North East, thereby unlocking the potential of the region so that it becomes the “New Engine of Growth” for the country, as envisaged by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

Addressing the inaugural programme as Chief Guest, Union Home Minister Amit Shah observed that the “legacy, cultural heritage and beauty” of North East have not only been a vital ingredient for attracting tourist worldwide but also has been an important “jewel of Indian culture”.

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