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October 15, 2015
Sikkim airport to be ready for operations by Dec 2016
GANGTOK: The 4th International Tourism Mart (ITM) was inaugurated by the Minister of State for Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation, Dr Mahesh Sharma, along with the Chief Minister of Sikkim, Pawan Chamling in Gangtok on Thursday.

The ITM has been organized by the Union Ministry of Tourism in association with the North-Eastern States and the state of West Bengal.

Sharma said the ITM helps to showcase to the world the rich and untapped potential of the North-East States. Promoting tourism in these states will be one of the prime focus areas of the Ministry of Tourism, he said. As improving connectivity is the key to achieve this, Sikkim will have its own airport in Pakyong, 35 km from Gangtok, by December 2016. "Preparations are afoot and we are hopeful that the state will have its first airport operational from December 2016," he said. The Centre has also plans to create better road connectivity by building more National Highways in the North- East.

Sharma said tourism is an economic engine for the country’s growth and development. Currently India’s share in the international tourist arrivals is a mere 0.68%. The facility of e-Visa has been extended to 113 countries and the Government will extend it to 150 countries by March Next year.

Pawan Chamling highlighted the initiatives taken by his Government to make Sikkim a most preferred tourism destination in the region. He said Sikkim is developing tourism by showcasing its cultural and natural heritage. Village Tourism and Home Stays have a tremendous potential in Sikkim as the villages are well-connected, he explained.

This tourism mart, spread over three days, is attended by 52 international delegates comprising of tour operators and media persons from 23 countries such as Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, UK, USA and Vietnam. Tour operators from eight north-eastern States and West Bengal and from other regions of the country are participating.

The State Tourism Departments of eight north-eastern states and West Bengal have put up exhibitions at the mart venue.

The international tourism marts have had impact on tourist arrivals in theNorth-East India. The foreign tourist visits (FTVs) to the north-eastern States during 2014 were 1.19 lakh with a high growth of 40%. The growth in domestic tourist visits (DTVs) have also shown an increasing trend, from 66.77 lakh during 2013 and 64.79 lakh during 2012 to 68.90 lakh during 2014.

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