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Festival hits hotel crunch

Kohima, Nov. 18: The shortage of hotels in Kohima has created a barrier to the inflow of tourists as the state prepares to celebrate Hornbill Festival.

The “Festival of Festivals”, as it is called, is held every year in the first week of December. It will be held at Naga Heritage Village, Kisama, 12km from Kohima.

“Because of a shortage of accommodation, the tourist numbers could not match our expectations. But we are trying our best to improve infrastructure,” parliamentary secretary for tourism Yitachu Pochury told The Telegraph.

More than 1,000 foreign tourists and several thousand Indian tourists are expected to attend the festival this year, said Himato Zhimomi, the commissioner and secretary of the tourism department. Last year, around 25 German tourists had to sleep in an open field at Kigwema village, 10km from Kisama, in makeshift camps because they couldn’t find a hotel.

Hotels in Dimapur, 74km from Kohima, have also been booked since January.

The parliamentary secretary said Rs 3 crore has been allotted for the festival and the government expects to get back its money. But for the last 10 years, many departments and organisations that are involved in the festival have no accountability.

“Our earnings will be much more than our spending,” Pochury said. Local tour operators could also have earned much more but they lost out to competition from tour operators of Assam, Delhi and Calcutta, he added.

After the law and order situation improved, the Union home ministry relaxed the restricted area permit and more tourists started coming to Nagaland. The Centre has extended this for another year with the exception of citizens from Pakistan, Afghanistan and China.

Citizens from these countries need to possess a protected area permit and restricted area permit from the home ministry to visit Nagaland. Other foreigners have to register with the superintendent of police or foreigners regional registration office on arrival. Myanmar nationals visiting Indian states beyond 16km of the border will also have to possess both the permits.

Sources said the reason for this is that militant groups still have links with China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar.

“The Hornbill Festival is about local culture so it will be about Naga art and culture,” Himato said.


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