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Shillong Offers to Host Tourism Meet

by Madhav Srinivasan 5 year, 7 months ago

Several states from India have been sending their representatives to tourism festivals in many European countries. Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma is said to have expressed a wish that Shillong should host the next India-Switzerland tourist festival

Officials from the tourism ministry and state governments from across India have been attending tourism festivals across the globe, in an attempt to promote tourism to their respective states. Chief Minister Mukul Sangma of Meghalaya, who attended the India-Switzerland tourism festival in August; said that a proposal had been submitted to make Shillong the venue for the next India-Switzerland tourism meet to be held in 2012.

Sangma presented the tourism possibilities of Meghalaya at a workshop in Switzerland and this seems to have favorably impressed Swiss officials. They were struck by the similarities between the landscape of Meghalaya and their own country.

Sangma’s Initiative for Shillong

“I told the people there that Meghalaya is equally beautiful as Switzerland, since the hills and the gorges are similar and I urged them to visit the state and the rest of the Northeast,” Sangma said.

With an increase in the number of Indian tourists to Switzerland, officials from both countries are exploring the possibilities to promote more regions of their respective countries for tourism. The Northeastern region of India has unexploited potential, and Sangma’s initiative might result in attracting more tourists to the state.

Sangma also expressed an interest in initiating interaction with neighboring counties like Bangladesh, Bhutan and Thailand. He said that the main need was to improve infrastructure in the state to make tourism more viable.

Improvements in Local Infrastructure

Till 2008, Meghalaya had only one airport, The Umroi Airport, 35 km from Shillong. This airport connects Shillong to other cities in Eastern India like Kolkata, Silchar and Aizawl. In 2008, President Pratibha Patil formally opened the Baljek Airport, along the West Garo Hills.

The Garo Hills is a place of great natural beauty that regularly attracts tourists to Meghalaya. This airport, which cost Rs.12.52 crore to build, was much delayed between its planning and execution stages, but when it was at last thrown open to the public, there was general public interest and many people gathered to witness the landing of the first flight, a Domlier 19-seater.

Both the Umroi and Baljek airports are capable of handling only small aircraft, but they have started providing flight connectivity to the state, a commendable step. There are plans to expand the Umroi airport and Baljek airport to enable more flights to reach the state and there is also a plan for an 18-seater aircraft to regularly service this route.

The Current Position

If the proposal for Shillong to host the next Switzerland-India tourist meet is accepted, it might provide the necessary impetus to put all these plans into action and make Meghalaya a favored destination among international and domestic tourists.

“In principle, the suggestion to hold the next meet was agreed on by officials of both the countries, present on the occasion,” Sangma said. Does this imply that only the official word is pending?

Further developments over the next few months can answer this question. 

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