Shillong: Tourists inflow to Meghalaya has doubled in the past 10-years and the number is increasing at a rapid rate, officials said.
The primary reason for this increase was the improved internal security within the state and the free publicity of the exotic and pristine spots on social networks and in the public domain, they said.
Tourist inflow, both domestic and international, has increased from 4.04 lakh in 2006 to 8.39 lakh till last year, according to statistics from the tourism department.
In 2006, a little over 4 lakh domestic tourists visited the state while in 2016, there were 8.3 lakh domestic footfalls whereas during the same period, the foreign tourist visits has increased from a little over four thousand to nearly 8500 footfalls till December last year.
There was a steady increase of about 50,000 more footfalls every year and going by the current rate, the number of tourists visiting the state will double in the next 7–8 years. The state government has also increased investment under the tourism mission and implemented several schemes, which include construction of tourist lodges, guest houses, roadside amenities and restaurants to promote tourism, according to chief minister Mukul Sangma.
With the inflow increasing, management experts warned that it could cause serious damage on fragile ecological spots like the double-decked rootbirdges in Sohra (erstwhile Cherrapunji), the sacred groves at Mawphlang (both in East Khasi Hills) or the limestone caves in East Jaintia Hills.
Sanjib Kakoty who teaches at the IIM-Shillong, said while inflow of tourists is good, preference should be given to attract quality tourists and not just quantity or the bulk visitors who could cause serious damage to the ecology of the area. “The double-decked bridge or the sacred groves cannot take in certain number of people at a given time. Proper regulation of visitors by the concerned authorities is a must given the present conditions," he said.
In fact recently, there were massive traffic jams for over 30km along the Guwahati-Shillong-Sohra highway. This is particular witnessed during weekends when thousands of cars from neighbouring Assam flock the state.
Cautioning the 100% increase of tourists inflow into the state, founding chairman of the Meghalaya Tourism Development Forum and a former minister, R.G. Lyngdoh said, “Many things could go wrong if we depend management of tourism on the government. The public at large should take ownership and should look for solutions for itself." “Village durbars should ensure proper management of a particular area and to also take stock of the ecology and to ensure that culture and local habits are intact," he said.
The tourist inflow has also witnessed an increase of beds even in far flung villages. The state government has identified over 40 tourist spots and East Khasi Hills district, in which Sohra, the wettest place on earth is located, attracts the bulk of tourists, a senior government official said.