ADB may aid Assam tourism projects

GUWAHATI, May 23 – Tourism in Assam is set to get a boost with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) likely to include the State in its financial assistance programme for tourism infrastructure development.

The State Government has submitted a proposal to this effect to ADB.

Official sources told The Assam Tribune that the State Government took up the matter with ADB at its recent meet in New Delhi following which the latter sought a proposal.

Once ADB accepts the proposal, it will send a technical mission to the State to assess the proposed projects and work out the details.

In another positive development, the State received Rs 50 crore from the 13th Finance Commission for tourism which was much higher than the earlier grant. The grant is in addition to what the State gets normally from the Centre for tourism promotion.

Earlier on Saturday, Principal Secretary, Tourism, Assam, HS Das, while addressing the second annual convention of Tour Operators Association of Assam, said that tourism was gradually getting the attention it deserved from the State Government. “After assuming office, the Chief Minister mentioned tourism as one of the top three priority areas and that is a positive development for the sector,” he said.

Stressing that tourism ought to be a total experience for the visitor, Das said that tourist infrastructure and facilities apart, the over all hygiene and sanitation of the State – especially the roads and streets and their surroundings – needed to be maintained properly. He said that besides the role of the Tourism Department, other line departments too have a responsibility in this regard.

“We have put enough funds at the disposal of the municipal bodies, and no municipality or town committee can take the plea of fund crunch for not discharging its responsibilities,” Das said.

Stressing the need for greater coordination among different departments for promoting tourism, Das said that the forest road leading to the tourist guest house on the bank of the Chandubi lake on the outskirts of Guwahati could not be repaired despite the sanctioning of funds, as the Forest Department was opposing the move.

PK Dong, retired DDG, India Tourism and chairman, Sikkim Tourism Development Board, who was instrumental in putting Sikkim on the world tourism map, gave an account of the tremendous strides the tiny hill State had taken in recent years.

"Sikkim's annual revenue earning from tourism reached Rs 700 crore in 2010 from Rs 1 lakh in 1995. Less than one lakh tourists visited the State in 1995 which jumped to over seven lakh in 2010. From an add-on destination, Sikkim is now a major destination in India," Dong said.

Attributing Sikkim's success to careful planning and implementation, Dong said that sustainability and preservation of the natural environment, besides making the local populace partners in the process, had been the guiding principles in promoting Sikkim's tourism.

“Sikkim’s forest cover, in fact, has increased by three per cent in the past 15 years… there is a limit to tourism and promoting it beyond its carrying capacity is always counter-productive,” Dong said.

Dong had a word of advice for Assam Tourism – package Assam and the North-east attractively. “The North-east is rich in potential but it needs to improve its image, develop tourism infrastructure and facilities, add new destinations, and do some aggressive publicity and marketing,” he said, adding that after the separation of Meghalaya from Assam, the latter ought to have promoted and projected Haflong as the State's lone hill station.