Meghalaya, the ‘abode of clouds’, is a paradise for nature lovers. A hill station that is home to beautiful and mesmerising sky in true sense has captivated the minds of tourists all across the globe. Ensconced in the northeastern Himalayas, it is the place where lush green valleys, rolling mountains and cascading waterfalls attract thousands of tourists every year, including visitors from Bengal and Assam who often make multiple visits to this hamlet. Known as ‘Scotland of East’ Meghalaya is a confluence of traditional and modern cultures.
Turning adversity into opportunity
Meghalaya’s economy thrives on tourism, and in summers, the state becomes a coveted destination for tourists. However, COVID19 pandemic has changed that trend this year. Not only for Meghalaya, but for the entire world one of the worst hit industries is tourism. That said, for a state like Meghalaya, this has become a question of how to ‘survive, revive, and thrive’. To combat the challenge, the state is now looking at living and adapting with the ‘new normal’ and seeks ways to revive its beleaguered tourism sector. Interestingly, after being shut for the last six months, state Government of Meghalaya has now identified an opportunity amidst the ongoing COVID19 crisis. Playing the eco- tourism and sustainable tourism cards, Meghalaya Government is aiming to strategize its tourism industry.
Elaborating on this, chief minister Conrad Sangma said, “People across the world have always seen Meghalaya as a destination for tourism from an environmental perspective. That is what our strength is. We want to continue to build our strategy on the basis of this strength and also package it in a better manner. We feel a strategy that targets high value tourism is something we should look at. Every year approximately 26 million tourists from India go to destinations abroad. This year the pandemic will stop them from travelling to international destinations because of travel restrictions and also due to fear of infection. We want to woo these travel happy souls towards the Northeast and towards Meghalaya to rejuvenate the tourism sector.”
Economic task force
Informing that in 2019 Meghalaya has recorded 1.2 million footfall and the tourism sector has played a pivotal role in providing direct and indirect employment to local people, chief minister said,
““Meghalaya is one of the fastest-growing travel destinations in Northeast. When COVID19 hit us, a lot of people got affected, and as the state government we feel that time is ripe to relook how we can re-strategize the tourism sector and bounce back to business. In the last few months we have created an Economic Task Force that studied the different industry sectors including tourism. A number of ideas have come up on how we can revive the tourism industry once the new normal is established. We do see an opportunity and are prepared now to brace the new normal.”
While the Meghalaya Government has prepared a roadmap to revamp the tourism sector, with no direct flights to the state except from Kolkata, the strategy appeared difficult to implement. Addressing this, the government has arranged for direct flights from Delhi which will start from end of October, and is likely to boost the industry further.
“We will be starting a direct flight from Delhi to Shillong which will be a big boost to the tourism industry. In coming months we will also be able to start flights from metros like Mumbai and Hyderabad as well. Connectivity is very important and our new initiatives will open new doors for us. “