“I am still often asked to show Tripura on the map,” said an official from tourism ministry at a travel fair in Mumbai last week. He was among delegations from a few Northeastern states struggling to establish their footprint on the country’s tourism map.
On the brighter side, however, these states recorded more than five fold rise in foreign tourists arrivals showed data. For instance, Tripura saw a surge in footfall from 5,290 in 2010-11 to 29,086 in 2014-15. It also hosted more than 3,61,000 domestic travellers until last year. But tourist growth during the same period was just over 2%.
“Limited air connectivity is our biggest hurdle. About 80% of our domestic tourists are from neighbouring West Bengal,” said B Jhonte, assistant manager, Tripura Tourism.
Manipur has an identical graph. Foreign tourist footfalls jumped from 431 in 2010-11 to 2658 in 2013-14. “North East attracts the niche tourists who prefer soft adventure, eco-tourism and luxury camping. These attract the overseas visitors who are in search of new untapped destinations and North East is the perfect one for such an experience,” said Karan Anand, head relationships with Cox and Kings Ltd.
He added that luxury camping is a new fad in the North East coincide with the Hornbill Festival which takes place in the first week of December every year. “This draws a niche segment among the foreign tourists.”
But the picture is not as rosy for some in the region. Foreign tourists in Nagaland for instance, fell from 3,304 to 2,585 between 2013 and 2015. But Mizoram recorded a slight better trend.From 800 foreign travellers in 2013 arrivals fell to 768 in 2014, but rose to 900 a year later.
“North East states were prominent among the new entries we had this year,” said Sanjiv Agarwal, chairman of Fairfest Ltd which organised the Travel and Tourism Fare in Mumbai last week. He added that more participation would mean wider holiday choices for people.