TOURISM PARADISE LOOKING GLOOM AS COVID CRISIS REFUSES TO DIE DOWN

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After the series of anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protests since last year, which gave a terrible start to the tourism industry of Meghalaya, the Covid Crisis has come as another major setback for the state, which is hugely dependent on tourism for a major portion of the year. Amarjyoti Borah writes.

After the continuous CAA protests which started towards the end of 2019, the state government and the tourism industry was hoping to make up the losses which it suffered last year, but unfortunately with the Covid Crisis this year- the tourism industry has suffered unexpected losses in the state.

According to officials of the tourism department in the state, the hotels in the state – both small and big ones- are among the worst affected, and most are expecting support or a bailout package from the state government.

Meghalaya, which is known for being an ideal tourism destination for both domestic and foreign tourists attracts thousands of tourists each year.

The state is now trying to innovate and explore ways to ensure that the tourism sector gets at least the minimum level of footfalls to be able to sustain itself.

“The crisis is grim as the industry has been hit by two back to back crisis- CAA and Coronavirus, and for several months most hotels were either shut or unable to do good business. Most big hotels have suffered huge losses- which will take them over a year or two to just make up the losses,” said an official of the Meghalaya tourism department.

To make up with the losses in the tourist friendly state, the state government and the tourism entrepreneurs are exploring ways to develop a COVID resilient tourism model in the state, so that the tourism industry is able to revive itself, and according to senior officials of the Meghalaya state government- the Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma is himself taking keen initiative. The state government is also exploring to develop a COVID 19 resilient model, to be able to tap the tourism potential.

Explaining the Covid Resilient model, an official of the Meghalaya Tourism department told media that the state government is exploring ways to take advantage of the prevailing situation by having a COVID-19 resilient model in place.

“There are 20 million people who go out of India to other countries, and even if the state can attract 5-10 per cent of the tourist inflow to the state, Meghalaya will hugely benefit,” said the official.

In an interaction with the media, the chief minister said that “The idea is to work towards the future on how we will adapt to tourism as we deal with Covid situation. We need to plan, we need a new model for promoting tourism in the State and the entire experience for the tourist,”

The government has also set up a tourism venture which consists of 20 log houses, and this has been developed with an effort to attract tourists.

“There are tourists who want a holiday to explore nature and this facility is ideal for those people, and we are hopeful of attracting such tourists,” said an official of the tourism department of Meghalaya.

The facility is about 20 km from Shillong city and is located amidst the hills of Mawdiangdiang.

According to senior government officials of Meghalaya, the state tourism department will be watching the response from this tourism project closely and depending on the responses, will develop similar projects in other parts of the state.

The officials also said that the Chief Minister will also be meeting official of the Union Tourism Ministry and the Tourism Minister to explore ways to ensure that the tourism industry in the state doesn’t suffer more and gets back on the track.

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