|Children and senior citizens celebrate World Tourism Day at Assam State Zoo in Guwahati on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos
Guwahati, Sept. 27: Assam is poised for unprecedented growth in travel and tourism, with the first ever Assam International Tourism Carnival slated for 2013.
“More than 20 foreign countries have already agreed to be a part of the carnival,” Assam minister for tourism Chandan Brahma said in Guwahati this afternoon at a function to mark World Tourism Day.
He said the government had chalked out a long-term tourism policy and tourism master plan, a long-felt need that had to be fulfilled to boost the sector.
“The policy has already been approved and will be implemented by a reputed global agency,” Brahma added.
“Negative news concerning insurgency and terrorism in the state had created a negative image of the state. That needs to be corrected. There is much to be done on the infrastructure front. Here we have taken steps to introduce world-class transport facilities for the benefit of tourists, including safe and speedy river taxis, high-end airport taxis and radio taxis, “ he said.
“The transport department will also introduce a ‘hop-on hop-off’ service for the benefit of tourists,” Brahma, who also holds the state transport portfolio, said.
Also, on the tourism infrastructure front, the state government had taken up a Rs 50-crore project to develop infrastructure in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the state, he said.
“Another Rs 50 crore has been earmarked to create a tourist circuit connecting Kokrajhar, Chirang, Barpeta, Baksa, Nalbari, Guwahati, Morigaon, Nagaon, Sonitpur and Tawang,” the minister said.
The Adventure Tour Operators Association of India had already declared Assam to be the ‘Best Adventure Friendly State’, while the state had also been named ‘Best Emerging State’ in the Safari National Tourism Award Contest, Brahma said.
The state had taken a number of steps to put Guwahati on the country’s and the world tourism map, he said.
Brahma said nearly 128 bighas of land that was “beyond the Ramsar area” at Deepor Beel near Guwahati was being acquired to set up a five-star ethnic village that would showcase the entire state. “Given the proximity to LGBI airport, this place should be a favourite with tourists who want such luxury,” he said.
Among the other steps that had been adopted was subsidy on approach roads constructed to connect tourist facilities, along with a subsidy on renewable energy, he said.
Speaking to the gathering, state director-general of police Jayanta Narayan Choudhury said there was a need for the police force to be sensitised to the requirements of tourists. “We will introduce studies on how to deal with tourists at our police training institute at Dergaon,” Choudhury said, while pointing out that Assam was a state with one of the lowest incidences of tourist harassment.
“The process of registration of tourists, which can, at present, be a difficult process, needs to be streamlined,” Choudhury said.
Litterateur Pankaj Thakur said it was time that the state considered in earnest the fact that tourism was the biggest industry in the world in terms of output. “Tourism alone can make Assam and the northeastern region economically viable.”