The Assam government along with private entrepreneurs are exploring the potential of tea tourism in the state, the nascent measures undertaken for which have drawn a good response thus far.
“Tourism is an important focus point for the state government and tea tourism is an avenue through which we can generate more revenue and provide employment opportunities,” a top tourism department official, who wished not to be named, told PTI.
The State Budget for this fiscal has earmarked ₹50 crore as capital infrastructure support for building guest houses and tourist facilities inside select tea gardens. “The guidelines for the scheme are being framed and are likely to be placed before the Cabinet by next week,” the official said.
Rajan Lohia, the managing director of Manohari Tea Estate in Dibrugarh, said, “We unveiled a resort inside our estate about two years back. The response from guests has been very positive. “For the rest of the year, we have bookings mostly from companies whose executives are visiting these parts on official work and want an experience away from a typical hotel in the busy city,” he added.
Concurring Lohia, Rakhi Dutta Saikia of Pabhojan Tea Estate in Golaghat said, “The USP of any tea estate is its serene and peaceful atmosphere. Pabhojan, being an organic garden, we try to ensure that the stay here is rooted to the traditional way of life as far as possible.” The non-AC cottages at Pabhojan are a bigger draw than those fitted with cooling devices, she said.
Generating employment and revenue
“Through tourism, we are also being able to generate revenue which is a relief for the tea estates as the industry is currently going through a phase of low-cost realisation vis-à-vis cost of production,” Saikia explained.
She also pointed out that the resorts will be generating additional employment opportunities for the local community. “Visitors hire vehicles to move around; they are interested in buying local products. These lead to revenue earnings for the local community,” Saikia added.
Assam produces nearly 50 per cent of India’s total annual tea and has about 800 big and several thousand small tea gardens spread across the state.