Meghalaya’s burgeoning tourism industry was brought to a halt by Covid-19, but the pandemic is an opportunity for the state to attract more domestic tourists when things begin to open up again, Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma said today.
Sangma made these comments at a virtual conclave to mark World Tourism Day, which was organised by the Union Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DONER) wherein he spoke of the vital role that tourism plays in the economy and enhancing livelihoods.
In 2019, 12 lakh tourists visited Meghalaya, making it “one of the fastest growing travel destinations in the North East,” Sangma said.
Although travelling for pleasure has almost completely been curtailed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, he said, “Amidst the disruption caused by the pandemic, there is also an opportunity for Meghalaya and the North East. India has almost 26 million outbound tourists. A large section of these will look for exotic destinations within the country. Meghalaya is one such exotic destination that will be ready to welcome a big section of these high-value tourists.”
Sangma expressed hopes that the tourism revival can be directed more specifically at rural areas of the State, where Meghalaya’s natural beauty and culture can be enjoyed by visitors.
“In this vein the government is investing in upskilling rural tourism stakeholders and is committed to investing in emerging tourism destinations by creating resorts and luxury tented accommodation. The reopening of the State to tourism will be planned around benefiting all tourism stakeholders – residents of the state and travelers alike,” Sangma said.
“Our cultural heritage and traditions are deeply rooted in nature and it is in rural Meghalaya that the best of our tourist destinations are located, be it in Sohra, Mawlynnong, Shnongpdeng or Nokrek,” the chief minister said.
Talking on the theme of this year’s World Tourism Day – “Tourism and Rural Development” – Sangma said, “It blends well with the theme of the event and is a reminder to all of us about the vital role of tourism in developing and enhancing rural economies”.
Sangma also told the conclave that direct flights from New Delhi to Shillong will start next month, which will further add to the growth of the tourism sector in Meghalaya. He also expressed optimism that direct flights will also soon connect Shillong to Mumbai and Hyderabad.
The North Eastern Council and DONER Ministry organises this event annually in different parts of the country to promote and showcase the rich cultural heritage of the North East to the rest of the country.
This year, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the event was organised virtually and was inaugurated by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and DONER Minister Jitendra Singh.