Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Guwahati, May 25: Dispur has sought help from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to improve tourism after the sector was accorded top priority by the new Congress government in the state.

Principal secretary, tourism, Assam, H.S. Das, said a project proposal was sent to the ADB, which has given a positive nod, at a seminar on tourism yesterday. The seminar was attended by leading tour operators of the state and tourism officials.

The ADB will study the proposal in detail to find out whether it suits its scheme of assistance.

At present, Sikkim is the only state in the Northeast to have received assistance from the ADB. The $20-million assistance to Sikkim was given to attract more tourists. The loan is under the Southasia tourism infrastructure development project.

Das said chief minister Tarun Gogoi a few days back had called a meeting with senior government officials wh-ere he indicated that tourism was one of the top priorities.

“Gogoi is keen to develop the tourism sector to make it turn around,” Das said.

He said the 13th Finance Commission had provided Rs 50 crore to the tourism sector for five years. “We want to use the funds for development of the tourism sector,” Das said, adding that Rs 50 crore was in addition to other assistance from the Centre. Assam was given Rs 66.07 crore for 18 projects in the 11th plan.

The basic thrust of the Assam Tourism Policy 2008 is to place the tourism sector on a high priority in the economic development of the state and to improve the quality of the existing services. The Indian Hotels Company Ltd (Taj group) is setting up a five star hotel in the state.

Das said the Assam Tourism Council has been formed to translate the policy into action. It has members from the government and the private sector. “The private sector should get more involved in the council,” he said.

A report on infrastructure gaps in the tourism sector in Guwahati, including Kaziranga, commissioned by the ministry of tourism in 2010, found that domestic tourists were more concerned about facilities like hygiene at wayside restaurants and dhabas, public conveniences along roads/streets, garbage disposal, drinking water supply, traffic management, sewerage and drainage system.

Former executive director of Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation, P.K. Dong, who was present at the seminar, said Assam tourism needs to be well-packaged and well-priced to attract visitors. He called for efforts to improve infrastructure and develop more tourism destinations.

“There are new market trends and tourists are looking for new virgin destinations now,” Dong said.

The Sikkim tourism industry earns Rs 700 crore a year.

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