Shillong, Oct 14 :
Tourism Minister Shripad Yesso Naik Tuesday urged states to develop innovative tourism products and services while noting concerted efforts are required to develop adventure, eco- and rural tourism.
Speaking at the inauguration of the third International Tourism Mart here, Naik stressed the need to “develop niche and innovative tourism” products and services which should be the focus areas for state governments and the private sector.
“Concerted efforts are required to develop adventure tourism, eco tourism, rural tourism, including home stays and birding tours in this region,” he said.
Naik also urged the participants to discuss new tourism products of the northeast region.
“This platform should be used by the tourism stake holders from the northeast region to interact with their international counterparts and also with the tour operators from other regions of the country,” he said.
Naik also pointed out that the ministry is “working out an action plan for cleanliness of tourism spots in the country”.
“This is sought to be done with the active participation of the private sector in order to build up the necessary tourism infrastructure which will facilitate travel and hospitality,” he said.
The three-day event began Oct 13 but was formally inaugurated Tuesday.
Underscoring the need to improve road connectivity to enhance tourist infrastructure in the northeast, Naik asked state governments to ensure timely utilisation of central funding and completion of projects.
“The improvement in connectivity will have a positive impact on the development of tourism and trade in the northeastern states,” he said.
He also said that the Narendra Modi-led government has recognised tourism as a “priority sector”, which would prove to be a game changer for the development and promotion of tourism in the country.
“I request the northeastern states to recognise the role of the Centre in promoting tourism. Together, we can all drive this key sector and make it one of the true pillars of Indian economy,” he said.
Until September 2013, the tourism ministry had sanctioned 57.6 percent of its funds for the northeastern states.
The minister later told journalists that the delay in completing infrastructure projects on time was mainly due to hurdles faced by state governments in acquiring land.
He said the central government has announced Rs.3,000 crore for development of national highways and state roads in the northeast.
Naik said his ministry has already prepared a master plan to develop two integrated circuits in each state of the region, and another 50 tourist circuits have been identified to enhance tourism.
Saying that success of tourism industry hinges on innovation and creation of new products and services, he urged the states to prepare a tourism festival calendar and publicise it in domestic and international markets.
“The northeast is endowed with natural resources and each state has its distinct features. All the northeastern states organise tourism festivals but these are not marketed effectively.”
Acknowledging the outlook for tourism in India is “very bright”, Naik said his sense of optimism is based mainly on the key trend of the growth in foreign tourism arrivals since June 2014.
Foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) in India during January-August 2014 were 46.84 lakh with a growth of 7.4 percent against 43.60 lakh FTAs with a growth of 4.9 percent during January-August 2013 over the corresponding period of 2012.
There has been a growth of 16.9 percent in August 2014 over August 2013 as compared to a growth of 9.1 percent registered in August 2013 over August 2012.
He also said the growth rate of FTAs in June 2014 after the new central government took over has more than doubled to nine percent.
Naik said the International Tourism Mart has had a positive impact on tourist visits in the northeast. The FTAs to this region grew 9.2 percent in 2013 over 2012 and the domestic tourist arrivals went up 9.6 percent for the same period.
The mart, the third to be held in the northeast in 18 months, has around 50 foreigners from 22 countries as participants.
These delegates are from Asean and Saarc countries, Japan, Korea, Australia, France, Spain, Russia, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Sweden, Britain and the US and are mostly journalists and tour operators.
“There has been an increase of foreign tourists visiting the region. Manipur has recorded a growth of 154 percent in 2013 in FTAs as compared to 2012 while figures for Arunachal Pradesh went up 111 percent over 2012,” tourism ministry secretary Parvez Dewan said.