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Nepal in tourist mart

Chennai, Feb. 5: One is a troubled kingdom grappling with an 'image problem', the other a disaster-hit state out to dispel fears that it is unsafe for visitors.

Cut off from the world after the king's coup, Nepal has shrugged off its internal problems to participate in an event billed as India's 'biggest travel mart network' that tsunami-ravaged Tamil Nadu has also utilised to court scared tourists.

'Misgivings are being spread about Tamil Nadu being unsafe for travel after the tsunami disaster. But all the coastal monuments, including the famous Pallava-period Shore Temple in Mamallapuram right on the seafront, are intact,' said state tourism secretary V. Ramadoss as the 39th Travel and Tourism Fair and Outbound Travel Mart opened here today.

From Nepal, a 14-member team of tour promoters have set up shop. Sumit Baral, assistant manager, Nepal Tourism Board, who is heading the delegation, said despite the 'image problem' in the wake of the political crisis, Nepal was still 'safe for travel by tourists'.

'Planes have started flying to Nepal again and hotels have resumed business,' he added.

Baral said communication systems should start functioning in the next two days. 'There are no restrictions on movements in tourist areas,' he emphasised.

Close to 100 participants, including contingents from Hong Kong, New Zealand and tsunami-ravaged Thailand and Indonesia, have arrived for the three-day fair. It shows the resilience of the regional tourism industry, Ramadoss said.

Indian states participating in a big way include Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Kerala, Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Jammu and Kashmir, which hopes to build on last year's tourist boom, is also taking part.

Ramadoss said Japan had made enquiries about fears of an epidemic threat in Tamil Nadu. But 'we have clarified that there was no epidemic after the tsunami and travel bookings are again picking up', he said.

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