Developed By: iNFOTYKE
GUWAHATI: Over 26 lakh domestic and 52 thousands foreign tourists visited the Fortier state of Arunachal Pradesh in the year so far registering a commendable increase of tourists footfall in the corresponding period of the last year even as the chief minister Pema Khandu said the number of tourists footfall would go several notches up if the state geared up to tap its immense tourism potential that is next to only yet to be fully tapped hydro-power potential.
The member organisations of the Arunachal Pradesh Tour Operators’ Association (APTOA) in fact have generated about Rs 17 crores revenue for the state exchequer till date.
With the hydro-potential of the state yet to be tapped expectantly, Pema Khandu has termed tourism as the only viable and available sector that could help Arunachal Pradesh develop economically followed by agriculture and allied sectors.
Addressing the 12th Arunachal Pradesh Tour Operators’ Association (APTOA) Travel Congress here on Friday at Itanagar, Khandu observed that despite being touted as the power house of the country, development of hydro-power had many facets that needed the addressed before its harness.
“In the meantime, we need to concentrate on our next viable potential sector, which is undoubtedly tourism,” he pointed.
Lauding APTOA, which is a conglomerate of local tour operators of the state, and its President John Panye, Khandu said due to their sincere efforts tourism sector had grown exponentially in the last couple of years.
“Despite the increase in tourist inflow to the state, we are far behind when it comes to what we have to offer in terms of potential. With the immense potential available here we can attract tourists several times more than what we are doing right now,” he said.
The Chief Minister called upon the state Tourism Department authorities to finalize the draft of the State Tourism Policy at the earliest which will chalk out a roadmap for the sector to grow.
He assured the state government’s commitment to support the sector while informing that the current budget has allocated Rs 144 crores to the department to promote tourism in a big way.
Khandu, who held the portfolio of Tourism Minister in the erstwhile government, admitted that the sector hadn’t received the attention of the government as much as it should have. He informed that during his tenure as the Tourism Minister, budget allocation was a mere Rs 18 crore, which also included salary component of the departmental employees. As soon as he became the CM, the allocation was enhanced to Rs 70 crore.
Reiterating his commitment to extend full cooperation for the growth of tourism in the state, Khandu announced a corpus fund of Rs 1crore for APTOA to take up various initiatives for its growth. Incidentally, former Chief Minister Late Dorjee Khandu, father of Pema Khandu, was the first to acknowledge the potential and contributions of APTOA and granted a corpus fund of Rs 10 lakh way back in 2010. In 2016, the present Chief Minister had enhanced it to Rs 50 lakhs.
Citing many potential areas of the state coming under restricted or protected areas, Khandu viewed that relaxation of such restriction for foreigners would be beneficial from tourism perspective. He however gave a staunch ‘no’ to any relaxation in the existing Inner Line Permit (ILP) system in the state.
He called upon local businessmen and entrepreneurs to invest in the tourism sector and create infrastructure favored by high-end tourists. To this regard he suggested budding entrepreneurs to take advantage of the Deen Dayal Swawlamban Yojna, which offers 30% subsidy to loans upto Rs 1 crore for projects including the tourism sector.
The Minister of State for Home, Kiren Rijiju emphasized on projecting and promoting Arunachal Pradesh as a cultural tourism hotspot.
On the controversy over the Center’s view to relax to some extent the purview of RAP/PAP, he said the demand had been made by successive state governments to increase the inflow of foreign tourists. He pointed that the relaxation if made would not affect the demographic profile or create any security lapses.