Guwahati, Dec 6 (PTI) The Centre will promote North East as a single tourism destination with an aim to double the tourist inflow within next three years, a top official of the Tourism Ministry said here today.

The region has huge potential considering the untapped locations across the eight North Eastern states, Union Tourism secretary, Rashmi Verma said at a press conference.

“From 2013 to 2016, the tourism sector in North East grew by 5.2 per cent. During this period, 77 lakh domestic and 1.6 lakh foreign tourists visited the region. This growth is encouraging, but it is just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

“We need to have greater and aggressive marketing strategy. We have now decided to promote and market the region as a single location. This will be in addition to the ongoing promotional activities done by restive states,” Verma said.

The Centre is more interested in promoting the North East tourism as different thematic destinations such as adventure tourism and eco tourism under the existing tagline — Paradise Unexplored, she added.

When asked about the growth targets for the region, the Union Tourism secretary said: “If we work together with all the states, I am sure that very very easily we can double the figures for the tourism sector of North East.” She said the government is also looking at promoting North East in neighbouring countries, especially ASEAN nations.

“For this, now we are focusing on improving the air connectivity. The Civil Aviation Ministry has identified 92 sites in North East and financial bidding has already begun.

In the next six months, we are going to see many new flights connecting smaller towns in the region,” Verma added.

The Tourism secretary said roadshows will be organised in foreign countries to promote North East as a tourist destination.

“We give special focus on promoting North East in all our travel marts. We will have a NE specific roadshow in Thailand and talks are going on. Similar roadshows will have in other ASEAN countries as well,” Verma said.

Highlighting Centre’s role, she informed that the Union Government has sanctioned 14 tourism projects for North East, amounting to Rs 1,200 crore, including two for Assam worth Rs 170 crore.

Talking about the ongoing three-day 6th International Tourism Mart, being held in Guwahati from yesterday, Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said 67 foreign delegates have participated in the summit from 29 countries.

“Besides, 29 tour operators from across India and 103 from North East are participating.

We are very confident that with the success of this Mart, there will be huge tourist inflow to Assam in coming days,” he added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.