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Mart to raise tourist footfall

Guwahati, Jan. 19: The ministry of tourism is hoping to see a 20 per cent increase in foreign tourists to the Northeast by next year as a result of the international tourism mart that was inaugurated here today.

“We hope to see a 20 per cent growth in foreign tourist arrivals and a 100 per cent growth after seven to eight years if the mart keeps on growing and becomes an institution,” Union tourism secretary Parvez Dewan said at the inauguration. This is the first international tourism mart to focus on a specific region of the country and the authorities are banking on it to transform the Northeast into a leading tourist destination.

Altogether 79 delegates from 23 countries are participating in the event apart from travel and tour operators. Governor J.B. Patnaik inaugurated the mart at Sarusajai stadium around 10am in the presence of Union tourism minister K. Chiranjeevi. Artistes in traditional attires performed dances of the region.

Addressing the gathering, Chiranjeevi, who is on his maiden visit to the region after assuming charge, said the mart could become a regular feature in the Northeast if the states so wished. He said the Centre was taking several initiatives to promote tourism in the region. The Union home ministry has lifted the two-month-gap restriction on re-entry of foreign nationals coming to India on a tourist visa. “This relaxation will facilitate visitors to the country to a large extent and the Northeast will also benefit. The ministry is committed to development and promotion of tourism in this region,” the minister said. He said his ministry was also promoting the concept of film tourism and had exceeded the mandatory 10 per cent of its plan budget that a ministry must allocate for the region.

An official said the ministry is also selling Northeast as an adventure tourism destination. The 10th annual convention of Adventure Tour Operators Association of India to be held here from January 20-22.

Patnaik said a northeastern perspective on tourism planning was yet to be prepared and hoped that Assam would play a pro-active role in it.