MIRZA, June 23 � Assam Tourism Minister, Chandan Brahma has said that rhino is one of the most important tourist attractions in the State and has condemned its indiscriminate poaching in the Kaziranga National Park.
Talking to this correspondent on Thursday, Brahma said that the Assam Forest Department has taken several initiatives to curb rhino poaching in Kaziranga but did not divulge whether tourism has been affected by the unabated poaching of rhinos in Kaziranga.
Brahma further said that it is not the only rhino which had been attracting tourists, but Assam has several other important attractions for the tourists. � The rhino is an internationally-known tourist attraction, but at the same time the vast natural resources of Assam, greenery, diverse culture and religions, heritage sites etc., are also some other tourist hotspots,� he said.
When pointed out that vast tourism potential of Brahmaputra river was yet to bloom, the Minister said that river tourism has not developed in Assam so far. However, he added that stress has been laid on boosting river tourism and work was on to make the Brahmaputra a tourist hub.
Asked to comment on whether speed boats could be pressed into service on predetermined routes on the Brahmaputra, to harness its vast untapped tourism potential, he said that speed boats could not be put into service in the Brahmaputra river round the year as in the lean (winter) season, water of the river goes down but floods occur during monsoons and the river course changes every year.
When pointed out that some publishers with their handbooks on tourism in India have been creating a negative impact on tourists intending to come to Assam, citing that Assam is not conducive for travel due to militant activities and asked whether tourist inflow has been affected due to such negative acts, Brahma agreed that some publishers had indeed sabotaged tourism in Assam citing militant activities but his department would take up the matter with appropriate publishers if these were brought to the notice of the department.
When pointed out that Assam Tourism had not initiated proper measures for development of tourism facilities in Kulsi river for the tourists who come to see the Gangetic river dolphin � an endangered animal and also an aquatic animal of Assam � the Minister said that he has directed his officials to submit a proposal to make Kulsi a tourist hotspot involving the Gangetic river dolphin.
Talking to this correspondent, a top official of Assam Tourism Department said, on the condition of anonymity, that tourists inflow to Assam has been increasing year after year and 5-6 lakh domestic and foreign tourists have been visiting Assam every year.
�Tourist flow to States like Goa and Kerala has got saturated and now the NE region has started fascinating most of the foreign tourists,� he said.
The official , however, said that tourist inflow to Manas National Park � a world heritage site � has decreased slightly in the last two years due to continuous violence in the BTAD areas.
Asked which were the best spots that tourists were preferring , the official said that Kaziranga, golf courts in Jorhat and Dibrugarh and Dibru-Saikhowa National Park, Kamakhaya Temple, Manas National Park etc., were the most favourite destinations. Understanding the tourists� attraction for golf, the Assam Government had organised the International Golf Tourism on December 22 last year at the Kaziranga Golf Resort, he said.
The official further said that along with rural tourism, Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi has stressed on boosting urban tourism also so that tourists could start their destinations from urban to rural areas and major investment had been seen in boosting urban tourism. Sankaradeva Kalakshetra, cinema halls, museums, parks, good restaurants etc ., could be important tools of urban tourism of Assam. Giant hotel chains like the Marriot, the Taj etc., are coming up in Guwahati.
�Everyone should come forward to boost tourism by establishing resorts, dhabas, running boats, operating tours for tourists and the Government could act as facilitator and frame rules and regulations so that tourists are secure and satisfied,�� the official said.