MUMBAI, June 17 - Improved infrastructure and air connectivity are drawing a large number of tourists to India�s North East and looking at the current traction, footfalls in the picturesque region are expected to grow by 10-12 per cent in 2019, industry experts said.
�The bookings for NE have gone up by 18 per cent as compared to the same period (April-June) last year. Tourism in Northeastern region is expected to grow by at least 10-12 per cent even in the next year,� Cox & Kings head, Relationships, Karan Anand, said here.
He said improved infrastructure and air connectivity have played a major role in driving tourism growth in the vast region which consists of eight States.
�Air connectivity has tremendously improved with new routes opening in the region last year. New flights have been introduced using Shillong as a hub to travel to other prominent tourist destinations of Meghalaya like Cherrapunji and Mawlynnong.
�The new airport at Pakyong (Sikkim) will further make reaching the northern part of the State, especially to tourist attractions such as Nathu La Pass, easier,� Anand added.
The region is mostly preferred by holiday-makers aged between 25-50 years and hailing from metros such as Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, besides Guwahati and nearby areas who flock there to explore its wildlife, rivers and culture, he said.
However, the second or third-time travellers, who are now discovering the attractions of NE, embark on their journey to understand the lifestyle and also the culture and the cuisine of the region, he added.
Echoing a similar view, a MakeMyTrip spokesperson said high growth of travellers opting for NE sector can be attributed to not only to better road infrastructure and rail connectivity but also to direct flight connectivity from New Delhi and Mumbai.
�Apart from this, more number of hotels are opening up in this region, making it easier for travellers to find accommodations in places which were earlier not very connected.
�At MakeMyTrip, we have seen over 100 per cent growth in the number of travellers opting for NE destinations such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya since the time we started offering holiday packages in the region,� he added.
He said overall, the sector, including Darjeeling (a hill station which falls in West Bengal), is growing by 35 per cent for summer travel. The MMT platform has witnessed 30 per cent growth in travel bookings to Gangtok, 120 per cent each to Shillong and Meghalaya.
The Assam, Meghalaya sector is increasingly becoming popular among the top metro markets, the MMT spokesman said.
Manmeet Ahluwalia, marketing head of Brand Expedia in India, said for a very long period, the NE part of the country had been largely unexplored due to poor connectivity and infrastructure.
However, tourism in the region is now witnessing a substantial growth thanks to a slew of government initiatives, better connectivity, infrastructure development and a variety of experiences on offer for voyagers, he added.
�We have seen a year-on-year growth of 25-30 per cent over the past five years. We are expecting the growth to continue with new government policies focusing on better infrastructure and connectivity,� he added.
Ahluwalia said besides young adults, including college pass outs and first-time earners to families, there has been a rise in queries from all segments.
�People who like exploring nature and its serenity are attracted by most of the destinations to the NE. We have also seen an increase in women solo travellers who feel comparatively safer in the environment.
�Adventure seekers enjoy the place for its challenging treks, kayaking, angling and rafting,� he added.
There has been an increase in queries and bookings from all over the country, but residents from Delhi, Kolkata, Bhubaneshwar, Ahmedabad and Jaipur top the list of people wanting to travel to NE, he said.
The region offers a holistic package. However, activities like trekking, mountaineering, adventure sports such as river rafting, mountain biking, hang gliding and para sailing are gaining popularity in the region, he said.
�Activities like the Ziro Music Festival and Hornbill Festival, too, have started to see a lot of traction.
�Attendance at these events from young millennials over the past 2-3 years has helped in making NE a popular destination among tourists,� he added. � PTI