‘Northeast can be holidayer’s paradise if private sector invests’

September 23rd, 2008 - 11:57 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 23 (IANS) Northeast India’s tourism potential has not been exploited as much as it should have been and the private sector needs to invest and do more to market the picturesque region as a holidayers’ paradise, says former tourism secretary M.P. Bezbaruah.”Tourism is always private- sector driven. There is too much dependence on the government’s role in boosting the northeast region’s tourism scenario,” Bezbaruah, who himself hails from the region, told IANS.

Of course, the government too needs to pitch in.

“The government certainly has to provide an atmosphere in which the private sector can flourish, but the private sector has to get together to exploit the market forces to provide the supply line in tourism,” he said.

The picturesque and exotic northeast region comprises eight states - Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh - each with a wealth of natural heritage and nature at its untouched best. But its tourism sector has not been able to tap even the domestic market well.

Of the total foreign tourist arrivals in the country, which was five million in 2007, the northeast gets a minuscule share, said Manoj Jalan, vice president of Purbi Discovery, a major tour operator in the region.

“Of the chunk of tourist arrivals, north India gets 49 percent, west India gets 29 percent, south India gets 18 percent and northeast India, despite the natural wealth that it has, gets just four percent,” Jalan said at a recent monsoon tourism meet in the capital.

Mani Shankar Aiya r, m inister of Development of North East Region (DoNER), had said at a recent press conference that the private sector is not doing as much as it can for the region.

“For instance, in the Information Technology sector, although 20 percent of the workforce in the country is from the northeast, just one IT company has approached us to invest in the region,” Aiyer said.

“However, prior to the Fourth Northeast Business Summit Sep 15-16, 14 companies have shown interest in investing in the tourism sector; so things will hopefully start looking up,” he added.

Bezbaruah said that public- private partnership or PPP was the best route to improve tourist infrastructure and attract visitors.

“Infrastructure is a big handicap in the northeast. Air connectivity in the region has improved dramatically, but look at the roads - road journeys are arduous.

“For all this, the private and public sectors have to work together. Marketing is very important. Good publicity, so that wrong perceptions of this region is removed, not followed by good results mean nothing. PPP is the only way out,” he said.

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