NE tourism should not end in mere paper works: Sangma

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Shillong, Oct 14 (UNI) Meghalaya Tourism Minister Conrad K Sangma today expressed concern over the poor infrastructure in the northeastern(NE) states, India's unexplored tourist destination.

''North East is a true destination for tourists and it needs much to be offered in terms of infrastrcuture to boost sustainable tourist,'' Mr Sangma said, addressing a third Regional Thematic Conference on ''Community Participation and Empowerment'' here.

The conference was jointly organised by the Union Ministry of Tourism and Meghalaya's Tourism Department.

Underlining the need of public and private sectors to promote tourism in the region, Mr Sangma said the potential of tourism in the region should not end in ''mere discussions and paper works''.

''We have potential and the North East must not be projected as a region prone to insurgency or anti-social elements since crimes is not limited to only this part of India,'' the Meghalaya Tourism minister said.

Mr Sangma also called for proper marketing of the rich tourism potential of the NE region through suitable publicity and tourist packages.

''For this, infrastructure and connectivity needs to be developed,'' he felt.

''Tourism also has to focus on the rural areas by involving the people from the grassroot level and reflecting the diverse cultures of the region,'' Mr Sangma said.

In his introductory address, Union Tourism Ministry Director Dr Prabhakar Dubey said the ministry was taking various steps to develop tourism in the country, which had become an important segment of the economy, with a recognition of its potential for inclusive growth and achieving the targets of the ''Millennium Development Goals''.

''The United Nations Development Programme has partnered with the first 36 sites under the Indigenous Tourism Project, most of which are now ready to receive the visitors,'' he said.

Informing that the ministry had launched rural tourism schemes through community participation, Mr Dubey stated that about 130 rural project sites had been identified in 27 states to promote traditional rural arts, crafts and culture-based livelihood in a bid to attract visitors and provide them with authentic and traditional experience.

He said foreign tourist arrivals (FTAs) had increased in the recent times from about 3.46 million in 2004 to 5.08 million in 2007 and during January-July 2008, it was 3.14 million from 2.38 million during the corresponding period in 2007.

Moreover, the share of domestic tourists had risen from 366 million in 2004 to 526 million in 2007, he informed.

''By the year 2020, we are expecting about 1.6 billion international tourists to arrive in India and 950 million jobs to be created by 2010,'' Mr Dubey said.

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