The Ministry of Tourism has formed a special committee of stakeholders active in the Northeast, tasked with identifying new destinations and developing itineraries around them among other things. TRAVTALK speaks to three members.
On March 19, 2021, active stakeholders from the tourism community of the Northeast region gathered at Radisson Blu Hotel, Guwahati to form a special committee tasked with promoting the region even more aggressively. They will need to identify new destinations, develop itineraries around them, identify places where events can be organised to create awareness about the region, and organise workshops and seminars for the local stakeholders in terms of providing them the necessary skills to sell the region.
Ranjeet Das, Immediate Past President and Advisor, Tour Operators Association of Assam (TOAA), who is part of the special committee, has made two key suggestions on what needs to be prioritised. He said, “With the pandemic there is bound to be some behavioural shifts among travellers. One such shift will definitely be the preference to choose nature, wildlife and rural settings over crowded urban areas. Assam and the Northeast abound in these. This is where we can score by marketing our lesser-known destinations, our rural destinations and our Community-Based Tourism (CBT) projects. Though the Northeast is dotted with CBT initiatives, we being from the region know little about these destinations and the activities built around them. A CBT fair can bring them on to one platform to showcase their products and activities.” Das also points out a second and a very crucial issue that the committee needs to look at. “A very common concern of a traveller is the high airfare to travel to Northeast. So it is important to explore the possibility for capping the airfare to make us competitive,” he says.
Tourist amenities lacking
Arijit Purkayastha, Chapter Chairman, ADTOI – North East Chapter, has also made a few suggestions to the committee. “Northeast India has always been able to allure tourists as a mystical region abounding in nature standing true to the tagline ‘Paradise Unexplored’. Tourists that once come to the region are enamoured by what they see and experience. Though most of them show a keen interest in revisiting, there are various practical factors that deter them from choosing the region again. One of them is lack of clean public toilets. As tourists coming to the region have to cover long distances to connect the tourist destinations, proper paid washroom facilities are a must,” he says.
He suggests that the first phase to implement this could be in Assam, which is the gateway to the Northeast, where upgraded toilets can be made available in petrol pumps. “This facility can be made available at every 50-km stretch on national or state highways,” Purkayastha adds. He suggests that the Ministry can make its Northeast India International Travel Marts one of the grandest marts of India with integrated and concerted effort. So far, eight NE-ITMs have been held. “There is also some confusion regarding two ITMs, viz., International Travel Mart for NE organised by Ministry of Tourism and the other one India Tourism Mart which is organised by FAITH and Ministry of Tourism. The branding of this mart, we feel, should be highlighted as North East-ITM,” he adds.
E Banlum Blah, President, North East India Tourism Confederation (NEITC) and Proprietor, Clara Tours in Meghalaya, feels that this new committee which has around 20-22 individuals has good representation from both the travel and hospitality industries. He says, “The idea is to guide the ministry as to the main pain points and suggest solutions. I feel we need to focus on circuit development and capacity building in terms of infrastructure, hotels, and skilling of manpower here.”