Itanagar: Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu on Wednesday called upon the officials of the tourism department to focus on the promotion of tourism in the state and not on constructions.
Khandu, who was chairing a review meeting of the department, said most of the assets under the state’s department of tourism were created without considering their feasibility and through individual-centric schemes, which he asserted, will not be continued at any cost.
The chief minister expressed concern that with the much-hyped tourism potential of the state, the department has not been able to substantially increase tourist footfall over the years.
Reiterating the government decisions to do away with engineering wings of all non-engineering departments like tourism, he said that one of the main reasons for the department not being able to lure tourists is that at present its main focus is on construction.
He suggested the department to focus on its core activity, which is promotion of tourism in the state, and leave construction works to the work departments.
“We have created many assets across the state, of which most are lying useless and have decayed. We are not going to tolerate such wastage of public money. It is up to the departmental officials to ensure it,” Khandu said.
On assets lying defunct in various places, Khandu advised the department to work out with departments like forest, public works, public health engineering, etc, and check if they want to lease these assets to them. To the issue of incomplete assets, he sought detailed reports on the feasibility of the project. “Only if the said asset can be utilised profitably, the government will provide funds for completion,” he said.
As the Centre is giving topmost priority to connectivity in the Northeast, Khandu said tourism footfall will increase drastically in the coming years and Arunachal Pradesh should be ready to maximise on it.
For this, he pointed, that attitude of the local people towards tourists must change. He called upon the district tourism officers (DTOs) to create awareness among the people on etiquette and hospitality.
Giving the example of Tawang, which registers the highest tourist footfall in the state, Khandu said it is not only because of its scenic beauty on offer but also because of the attitude of the local people.
“None of our districts is lesser than the other in respect of natural and cultural beauty. Each district is unique and has something different to offer. But what attracts tourists more is the local hospitality, their behaviour and easy access. We have to work on creating awareness in a big way,” he said.
Khandu also emphasised on taking along all stakeholders like tour operators, adventure sports enthusiasts, bloggers, hoteliers, online agencies, etc, for boosting tourism in the state. He pointed out that the department alone cannot succeed in promoting Arunachal as a much-sought destination unless all stakeholders work together in tandem.
He advised the department to prioritise wayside amenities with all modern facilities on tourist circuits, particularly on those circuits frequented most by tourists. He suggested that such wayside amenities may be created by the department and leased out to prominent dhabas or restaurants along the route, who can maintain them.
Khandu also called for focus on promoting homestays and slowly build-up to switch over to high-end tourism in a few years.
“We need to approach and work out with big groups like Taj Hotels for investing in the state that will pave way for high-end tourism,” he said.
On various issues like creation of posts, lack of sufficient manpower, office infrastructure, etc, the chief minister asked the DTOs to give in writing all issues concerning their respective districts to the new director for consideration of the government.
Tourism minister Nakap Nalo also expressed concern over majority of assets of the department lying defunct and in dilapidated condition.
While endorsing the chief minister’s view that rampant approval and construction of assets must be stopped, he emphasised that construction of all assets under the Centre’s Swadesh Darshan programme must be completed within time. He informed that because of one incomplete project, funds for rest of the projects will be halted, which the state cannot afford.
Supporting the government’s decision to do away with the engineering wing, Nalo, however, requested the chief minister that a strict directive may be given to the works department assigned for tourism projects, whichever it may be, to put in place a mechanism to coordinate with the nodal department all the time in execution of projects.
Tourism secretary Sadhna Deori, newly appointed director Abu Tayeng, deputy directors, assistant directors, district tourism officers, resident tourism officers and tourist information officers, besides officials from the department’s engineering wing were present at the meeting.