Second International Tourism Mart inaugurated in Tawang

TourismMart copyTawang (Arunachal Pradesh): Union Tourism Secretary Parvez Dewan on Saturday said that the Ministry of Tourism has spent 56 percent of its budget during the last six months, amounting to 28 per cent annually, and is holding the second International Tourism Mart-2013 in Tawang, which reflected the commitment of the government to promote tourism in North East India, and in Arunachal Pradesh and Tawang in particular.

Addressing participants here, Dewan urged the people of Tawang to have their own unique identity by painting all buildings white, its traditional colour, and appealed to the 68 delegates from 23 countries to become ambassadors of Arunachal tourism to facilitate the flow of tourists from their respective nations to this part of India.

Responding to a volley of queries from media persons later, Dewan said that India records 105 crore domestic tourists and 65 lakh foreign tourists annually, yielding revenue of USD 18 billion from foreigners which amounted to 6.5 percent of national GDP besides generating about 10% direct or indirect employment.

He told ANI that though North East India has been receiving about 59,000 foreign tourists, but this event would hopefully increase by 10 per cent a year. He said that the tourism ministry promotes only NE India and Jammy and Kashmir by organising road show. The attendance of 27 foreign media persons this time against 21 in ITM-2012, an increase of 33% reflected the popularity of NE India as tourist destinations among foreigners.

On relaxation of restricted area permit (RAP) for foreigners in Arunachal, tourism consultant P Sivaraman said that the relaxation has been given to many tourist circuits and more would be given on receipt of request from the state government.

On the connectivity problem, Dewan said that though it was unrelated but there would be no dearth of fund for development of infrastructures in Arunachal Pradesh.

Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, who inaugurated the ITM-2013 as chief guest, pitched in to say that in next few years, the Trans-Arunachal Highway connecting Tawang to almost all district HQs upto Kanubari in far east Longding, four-lane highway, four-lane East West Corridor connecting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh would bring a sea change by removing all communication bottleneck.

He said: "I have been pursuing New Delhi for implementing the proposed tri-national highway linking Arunachal with Bhutan via Bleting and Myanmar via Pangsau Pass through the historic Stillwell road to link the rich South East Asian countries, where 50% of the world's rich live. This would herald a new chapter for growth of international trade, tourism and would be a harbinger of bilateral relations among the nations of South East Asia and NE India. This would in turn serve as a panacea to end insurgency menace, mushrooming of youth organizations, avoidable crimes etc. confronting the region for lack of socio-economic development."

While the Gopinath Bordoloi Airport at Guwahati has been made an international airport to facilitate air services to most of the S E Asian countries to give an impetus to the tourism industry, air services in this land-locked state would improve drastically with the operationalisation of seven airfields being upgraded by the Indian Air Force at Ziro, Tezu, Pasighat, Mechuka, Anini, Wallong and Tuting while the one at Vijaoynagar has been made operational in November 2011. While the Harmuti-Itanagar railway line is nearing completion while the Green Fields airports at Itanagar would be started soon which would improve connectivity to this land-locked state.

"The people of Tawang are very soft spoken, nice and hospitable who greeted us smilingly," said Nguyen Thuy Tien (Representative from Ho Chi Minh City Tourism Promotion Center).

However, Japanese travel writer Michiko Wakita expressed her regret and dissatisfaction over Tawang being chosen as the venue, and not Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar.

"All the foreign delegates came by helicopter and go back by chopper. Where is the scope to experience the uniqueness of this place? Why not Itanagar as venue," she wondered?

"Seeing is believing' and at Itanagar you would have seen nothing. Despite the trouble, the experience would be worth it," I replied.

In his inaugural address earlier, Tuki said the Northeast India known as 'the Paradise Unexplored' is indeed a destination with huge tourism potential that is yet to be tapped of its true potential.

"With such diversity not only in its geography but also in our way of life, Northeast India has a lot to offer to any tourist visiting this part of the country. We have some inherent qualities such as our hospitality, festivities and while love for music and culture in our blood, which, if capitalized professionally can attract a lot of tourists," Tuki told the foreign delegates and over 100 delegates from eight North East states and West Bengal besides a battery of media persons and travel writers including from aboard.

Lauding union tourism ministry for its decision to hold the ITM exclusively to promote the North East India as a favoured tourist destination, he said that ITM will ultimately help achieve the goal to project NE as the most sought after destination of the world.

"We have some inherent qualities such as our hospitality, festivities and while love for music and culture in our blood, which, if capitalized professionally can attract a lot of tourists," Tuki said, adding NE India is a treasure house for adventure seekers - mountaineering, trekking, white water rafting, angling. You name it, we have it all here. For nature enthusiasts, NE India being the one of the last green zones of the world, its biodiversity is unparalleled while numerous tribes have unique culture. Come to NE India and you will find what you seek," he said.

Referring to the top priority to promotion of the tourism sector for having potential to generate massive self employment avenues while enriching the state exchequer, he said that this Himalayan state is a treasure trove of natural beauty inhabited by over 150 major and minor hospitable tribes with their rich cultural mosaic, art and crafts, tribal cuisines which offer huge scope for the growth of tourism.

"You have come as strangers and I am sure you would go back as friends' Tuki said with confidence.

Appreciating the hospitable people of Tawang whose positive attitude has resulted in massive flow of tourists to this far off land against all odds. The innovative home stay facility and promotion of religious tourism besides the unmatched scenic beauty deserve applause, he appealed to the people of Tawang to maintain the spirit to make it a model for the country.

Tawang is still unpolluted which had prompted the famous magazine, Lonely Planet to identify it as 'Last of the Great Shangrilas', said Tourism Minister Pema Khandu, adding that the ITM would serve as a platform for the tourism buyers and sellers. He hoped that it would serve its purpose and exhorted every delegate to make the best use of it besides attending the Tawang Festival from tomorrow to showcase the rich cultural heritage of this unexplored land.

Union additional tourism secretary Girish Shankar pointed out that conducting the ITM-2013 in Tawang was the decision of Union Tourism Minister Chiranjeevi and the state government was the first to volunteer to host the event.

Three states have offered to host the 3rd ITM, he said, adding the events organized by the union ministry aimed at showcasing the region's huge tourism potential to the world to woo tourists.

Later, Tuki inaugurated an exhibition of an exhibition of nine participating Indian states showcasing their tourist potential, traditional, cultural, art and craft uniqueness.

Sikkim Tourism Minister Bhim Dhungel, Nagaland Tourism Minister E E Pangteang, Arunachal's Tourism Parliamentary Secretary PD Sona, Art and Culture Parliamentary Secretary Tsewang Dhondup and Karmik and Adhyatmik Affairs department chairman Rev T G Rinpoche and top ranking officers, among others were present on the occasion.

The inaugural function was followed by PowerPoint presentation of nine participating states to highlight their respective tourism scope beginning with Arunachal tourism secretary Sonam Chombay.

Source: 'ANI'