Meghalaya to soon have five-star hotels, modern airports

By Azera Rahman, IANS

New Delhi : The exotic northeastern state of Meghalaya is all set to get three five-star hotels, said Meghalaya Chief Secretary Ranjan Chaterjee here Monday. The Shillong and Tura airports in the state are also being upgraded, he added.

Support TwoCircles

“At the moment it’s just one hotel, Pinewood in Shillong, which is good and tourists flock there. But with tourism being boosted, there are more visitors. That’s why we are planning to set up more and better quality hotels,” Chatterjee told IANS.

“There are talks going on about setting up of three five-star hotels. The ITC group has shown interest in this regard and we will be meeting Dec 2 to discuss the details,” he added.

The hotels would be set up near Barapani, a lake which attracts a lot of visitors round the year.

Referring to the issue of infrastructure development and communication, Chatterjee said that the upgradation of airports in Shillong and Tura were on track.

Meghalaya Chief Minister D.D. Lapang, in an interview to IANS earlier this month, had said: “Accessibility to the northeast is a major challenge. For this reason, we wanted the Shillong airport to be upgraded and I had a word with the civil aviation authorities in this regard.

“I am happy that the authorities have agreed to it. After upgradation, communication will become a lot easier. For instance, people can take a flight to Bangkok and reach in just two hours.”

Adding to that, Chatterjee said that while civil aviation authorities have agreed to the proposition, the formal agreement would be signed within a month or two.

“For the Shillong airport, a formal decision will be taken in Jan 2008 and for the airport in Tura, it will be in Feb. After that, within a span of 24 months, the upgradation procedure will be completed.

“In fact, they have already started building the terminal at the Shillong airport,” he said.

The spice division of the ITC group has also shown interest in procuring the famous Lakadong turmeric of Meghalaya, which is extensively grown in Jaintia and Garo hills in the state.

“Just like the Raja chilly of Nagaland, the Lakadong turmeric of Meghalaya is renowned nationally and internationally. The ITC group has expressed its interest in procuring it and the state government is examining the offer.

“What we are concerned about is that the farmer should get the best possible deal. That’s why we are looking at modifying some of the clauses. If everything works out fine, we will sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU). Marketing the turmeric under ITC’s brand will definitely be beneficial,” Chatterjee said.

In an earlier conversation, Lapang had also said that boosting the state’s cash crops and benefiting local people and farmers were at the top of their minds.

Preventing any further brain drain and giving the youth of the state enough reasons to stay back and work at home instead of venturing out to the metros, the state is also tying up with many IT companies.

“A Kolkata-based IT company has already ventured into Shillong. Another IT company, a BPO, of Australia has got in touch with us to set up its base in Meghalaya and is interested in hiring local people.

“The thing is that our youth has a lot of potential. They go out and work and do well in life in every field. That shows that they have the potential, but the opportunities are lacking. These initiatives will hopefully make them want to return home,” Chatterjee said.

Setting up cold storage chains through public private partnerships (PPP) is yet another initiative.

“We first tried setting up cold storage chains through the private mode, but it failed. Then the government tried its hands, but that too failed. So now we are planning to set up two to three cold storage chains through PPP.

“This will not only cater to the state’s needs but the entire northeast’s,” Chatterjee said.

The cold storage chain will be a relief to pineapple growers in the state. Only 25 percent of the 96,000 metric tonnes of pineapples produced annually are marketed regularly. The rest is either sold at cheaper rates or wasted.

Besides pineapples, the state also has a healthy production of strawberries, oranges and orchids.