Development of Tourism in North Eastern Region is prime area of focus for the Ministry of Tourism. The Ministry has taken several initiatives for growth of domestic and international tourism in the region. One of the many challenges region faces in development of tourism is the absence of quality infrastructure, services and awareness about the array of tourism products region has to offer.

The Ministry is carrying out number of activities to handle the issues on above fronts. On one hand the Ministry has given great impetus to the tourism infrastructure in the region under its flagship schemes of Swadesh Drashan and PRASHAD which were  launched  in 2014-15. For development of Tourism infrastructure, the Ministry has sanctioned 17 projects for Rs. 1349.04 crores covering all North Eastern States under its schemes of Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD.  The Ministry is actively working with other Central Ministries like Mo/Culture, M/o DONER, M/o Road Transport and Highways, M /o Civil Aviation etc. for development of Tourism in the region. 

Various  efforts of Ministry have shown positive results and the Foreign tourist arrivals in the region has shown an upward trend over the years. The region received a total of 1.69 lakh foreign tourist visits during 2017 as against 1.45 lakh in 2016 registering a growth of 16.7% over 2016. The Domestic Tourist Visits reached to 95.47 lakhs in the year 2017 against 77.71 lakhs registering impressive double digit growth of 22.8% over 2016. 
Details of Tourist arrivals in North East Region state wise:

For promotion of North East region Ministry carries out special promotion in domestic and international markets highlighting regions diversity, tourism products and its rich culture. The Ministry organizes ITM (International Travel Mart) every year in one of the North eastern state with objective of providing platform to North Eastern States to showcase their tourism potential to perspective international and domestic buyers and opportunity to interact with them. First  ITM held  in 2013. Second ITM also  held in the later part of the same year. This year the 7th Edition of ITM is scheduled to be held from 22nd to 24th November 2018 in Agartala, Tripura.

Last  year i.e. in 2017 the 6th ITM put the spotlight on India's "Act East Policy", blossoming ties with ASEAN and the larger East Asia region, home to the world's rapidly growing economies and India's emerging tourism markets. Besides deliberations on promotion of tourism in the North East Region in general,  keeping the objectives of the "Act East Policy" in view, the panel discussions focused on promoting cultural ties, people-to people contact with countries in the ASEAN region providing enhanced connectivity to the States of North Eastern Region with other countries in our neighborhood, thereby developing inter-regional tourism between the ASEAN and North East Region of India. The ITM - 2017 also saw an active participation by the Ministry of DONER to synergize the process of development of tourism of the North East Region. Around 66 foreign delegates comprising of stakeholders and media persons from over 29 countries namely Australia, Bhutan, Brunei, Canada, China, Combodia, Cyprus, Fiji, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands, Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Tanzania, Thailand, USA, UK, Vietnam, Turkey, South Korea attended the mart. Besides the foreign delegates, 29 domestic stakeholders in Tourism sector from other parts of the country and 103 sellers from the North Eastern States are participating in the mart. Representatives of State Tourism Departments of these North East States were also present to showcase their tourism destinations and to interact with the delegates. Despite  the  time  constraint,   this time in the 7th ITM  more  than 40  foreign delegates/ buyers  and  around 80 domestic delegates are expected. There will be around 80  sellers  from different  states of North East.  Another fact is that perhaps  ITM is  so far  for first time will  be  the  biggest international  mart in Tripura; before  that  no such event  took place  in that  kind of magnitude  in the  state.    

Tripura being an industry  deficit  state  can   be benefitted   hugely  due  to  ITM as  it   always  provides ample  opportunity  to  the host  state  for showcasing their   tourism  products  as well as  potentials  to the influential foreign as well domestic buyers.  If   state  government could  yield  the benefits of ITM  for tourism  then  It  also certainly will help  to grow  the  various ancillary industries  in the state. Heavy  industry  is  needed  for development; but  for  economic prosperity of a state -  the role  of  soft  industry  based on tourism can never  be ruled out   as we  know  there are countries in the world  or even  certain states in our country solely thrive on tourism  only.  Likewise, Tripura,  another  precious  jewel in North East India  with its own resources and  impeccable  natural beauty, can be one of the major  tourist  attraction in the world.    It,  thus,   could  be a game  changer  for  Tripura. But  before  that  certain  essential  steps  also needed  for  improvement   of good connectivity and   accommodation system for  visiting  tourists in the state.  Hope that  solving   these problems regarding the basic amenities  of the  State Government  won't  take much time. 

(The  writer is Regional Director for North East India of Ministry  of Tourism, Government of India)

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