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Guwahati, Dec. 10: If things go as planned by the Centre, a tourist could plan a visit to the ancient Kamakhya temple in Guwahati and the Shirdi Sai temple in Mumbai in the same itinerary.
The DONER ministry and Maharastra government is contemplating an exclusive tourist circuit between Maharastra and the Northeast in order to push tourism sector in the region.
The idea figured in a meeting between DONER minister Jitendra Singh and Maharastra tourism minister Jay Kumar Rawal in New Delhi on Thursday, which focused on having a future collaboration between Maharastra and eight states of the Northeast.
"Among the various suggestions made by Singh, one was to have exclusive tourist circuits between Maharashtra and the Northeast separately devoted to different themes. For example, there could be a religious tourism circuit enabling the pilgrims to visit religious spots like Shirdi Sai in Maharashtra and Kamakhya temple in Assam in a single itinerary. Similarly, the holiday circuit or the heritage circuit could connect spots like Maharastra's Elephanta caves with some of the popular heritage spots in Meghalaya and Sikkim. The DONER minister is of the view that while the people of Northeast could find it fascinating to explore the different moods of sea while in Mumbai, for Maharashtrians, states like Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya could offer wide range of landscapes, meadows and mountain ranges," a statement issued by DONER ministry said.
Elephanta caves are a network of sculpted caves located on Elephanta island, also known as Gharapuri in Mumbai harbor. Kamakhya temple situated atop Nilachal hills in Guwahati attracts hundreds of pilgrims and tourists from across the country every day.
The data compiled by the market research division of the Union tourism ministry recently revealed that although Northeast is endowed with vast potential of eco-tourism, none of the states of the region figured among the top 10 states with maximum number of tourists visiting them during 2015. The number of domestic tourists' visits to the northeast was 1,432 million in 2015 compared to 1,282.8 million in 2014.
Tamil Nadu (333.5), Uttar Pradesh (204.9), Andhra Pradesh (121.6), Karnataka (119.9), Maharashtra (103.4), Telangana (94.5), Madhya Pradesh (78), West Bengal (70.2), Gujarat (36.3) and Rajasthan (35.2) witnessed maximum number of domestic tourists' inflow during 2015.
The Northeast reported visits of 118,644 foreign tourists in 2015 which was a miniscule 0.5 per cent of the total number of foreign tourist visits recorded in the country. Region-wise, the foreign tourists' visits during 2015 was the highest in western India (30.6 per cent) followed by the south (29.1 per cent), north (28.4 per cent), and east (11.4 per cent).
The DONER ministry statement said the move was part of the Centre's initiative to explore the tourism potential of the Northeast and bring in more innovative means to attract tourists, both domestic as well as foreign.
Tour operators here said the move could bring in more tourists as domestic tourists were either unaware of the amenities in the Northeast or are scared to visit to due problems like militancy. "The problem of militancy has come down to a large extent now and it is time to take up innovative ways like the circuit being planned with Maharastra, in order to market our region properly," said Nibedita Kashyap, a tour operator here.
The DONER minister said the Centre had decided to set up a Film & Television Institute in Arunachal Pradesh to attract film industry for shooting their films in the Northeast. "The vast scenic beauty of the Northeast remained unexplored by the film industry and this is because of poor facilities for carrying and storing film shooting equipments as well as the constraints of connectivity. With the setting up of local film institute in the region and improvement in connectivity, these constraints can be taken care of to a great extent," said the statement.
It said DoNER ministry was contributing to upgrade the airstrip at Shillong airport, while the work on Sikkim's Pakyong airport was in progress. "Besides the train to Bangladesh from Tripura which will soon be a reality will also give a boost to trade, business and tourism," it said.
(Image: Internet sources)