SHILLONG: The Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Conrad K. Sangma, and Union Minister of State for Tourism, Shripad Yesso Naik, inaugurated the 11th edition of the International Tourism Mart (ITM) on November 21 in Shillong. The three-day event is being held from November 21 to November 23 at the Lariti International Centre for Performing Arts and Culture.
Addressing the event, Yesso Naik said that Meghalaya is a beautiful state with huge potential in adventure and eco-tourism and that ITM plans to facilitate interaction between government agencies and stakeholders. “This year ITM is different in many ways, after a long gap, international tour operators, and bloggers are participating in this current edition. The Ministry is making efforts to make this event carbon-neutral. The Northeast of India has emerged as a popular tourist destination for travellers seeking adventure, culture, nature, festivals and offbeat experiences,” said Shripad Naik.
The region is known for its rich biodiversity, ethnic diversity, and stunning landscape comprising snow-clad mountains, pristine lakes, and dense forests, he said, adding, “I have been informed that the Mart has elements of B2B meetings between the buyers for international as well as domestic markets and sellers from the northeast region, focused panel discussions on various contemporary subjects, presentations by the northeastern states, a northeastern bazaar, musical performances, food demonstration, specially curated technical tools to provide the participants with a complete taste of the tourism that the region is offering.”
Chief Minister Conrad Sangma welcomed all the delegates, students and dignitaries present on the occasion. The Chief Minister in his address acknowledged that the kind of economic growth that the region is witnessing in the northeast is unprecedented. “In the last many years, the kind of support that has been given by the Prime Minister, Govt. of India and different Ministries has been unprecedented. There is a very strong and special focus to ensure that the NE States move together with the rest of the country and ensure that economic development is reached in this region, whether it is in respect of infrastructural development, youth development programme, agricultural sector, or the socio-economic sector like tourism, there has been tremendous support from the government of India,” he said.
While acknowledging the huge potential for tourism in the region, Sangma said, “Tourism is one of the sectors that can ensure that we create job opportunities for the ever-growing number of youth seeking employment every year. Tourism has been one of the main pillars of economic policies and programmes for our State government.” He also stressed that plans and policies should be tailor-made to the strengths of the State, it has to be made based on the competitive advantages, or the kind of USPs that the State has and can develop on those. He also said, “We have to ensure that we involve the community in whatever we do and while focusing on economic development and tourism, we need to ensure that we take care of the environment and the ecology also.”
He shared many of his ideas that can yield positive responses if implemented in true spirit. With respect to working on the protection of elephants, the CM said, “We as a State want to work with the Government of Assam to protect the elephants. We have one of the largest populations of elephants in the entire Asian continent and hence we can have an elephant corridor permanently marked, which could also serve as a tourism destination where people can come and experience and see the elephants and at the same time human and elephants can live in peace and harmony.”
Addressing the Press at the launch of ITM 2023, Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, V Vidyavathi shared the objective of organising the annual tourism mart, i.e. to showcase the untapped potential of the region, both domestic and international markets to promote sustainable tourism. “The effort on our side is to work on different aspects of tourism. One aspect is that the northeast, as a region, has taken the lead in terms of sustainable tourism and also being extremely conscious about the adverse effects of tourism, if any. There are lessons, which we really want to learn from the northeast and take to different parts of the country and equally be sensitive to the very fragile environment here so that we develop tourism as sustainable and a dream tourism model,” she added. (ANI)