north east foreign tourists
Foreign tourists visiting north-eastern statesKBK

The number of foreign tourists visiting the north-eastern states of the country has recorded a sharp jump of 40% to 1,18,552 in 2014 from 84,820 in 2013, according to the latest data compiled by the Union Ministry of Tourism.

Rising Number of Foreign Tourists

Sikkim, which is not considered a part of the "seven-sister states" but essentially forms a part of the North-East, hosted the highest number of foreign tourists. As many as 49,175 foreign tourists visited the tiny state in 2014, as compared to 31,698 in the previous year.

Probably the state's better accessibility to the rest of India as compared to the other states in the region was the reason for high growth of tourism. Sikkim is also sandwiched between Himalayan countries Nepal and Bhutan and the proximity makes it an easy choice for the foreigners.

However, it was Tripura that registered the steepest growth as the number of foreign tourists swelled to 26,688 in 2014 from 11,853 in the previous year. Assam also saw a good increase in number, from 17,638 to 21,537.

However, the figures fell by more than a half in Arunachal Pradesh to 5,204 from 10,846 in 2013.

Meghalaya surpassed Arunachal Pradesh with a decent increase from 6,773 in 2013 to 8,664 in 2014. Manipur and Nagaland also saw slight increase in the number of foreign tourists. Mizoram again finished at the bottom of the table with just 836 foreign tourists visiting the state in 2014.

North East Festival 2015

The increase in the number of tourists can be seen as a result of efforts of the North East Festival, the first edition of which was held in 2013. The figures are expected to rise further this year as the third edition of the festival is to be held in mid-October.

The three-day festival, which attempts to showcase and create awareness about the North-Eastern states, will be begin in New Delhi on 16 October.

"The biggest cultural festival of Delhi is back. Tourism is the main focus," IANS quoted organiser Shyamkanu Mahanta as saying. "We will also promote regional festivals like Sangai, Hornbill and Rongali so that tourists can plan their visit to the northeast accordingly. There will be sessions on tourism and connectivity too."

Football, Delicacies, Music and More

The festival will also focus on football and the region's traditional sports. Ahead of the main event, a football competition will also be held in the national capital from 10 to 15 October. Around 20 Delhi-based colleges will compete against various northeastern football clubs during the event, that carries a prize money of Rs 5.5 lakh.

Photographs highlighting the role of freedom fighters from the region as well as tribes from the states will also be displayed along with traditional costumes, handlooms and handicrafts.

North-eastern food will be another attraction of the event with 25 stalls offering delicacies from the region. Visitors can also buy vegetables from the region that are not easily available in Delhi.

"We are trying to bring the entire northeast under one platform. There will be around 45 musical acts. Popular musicians like Lou Majaw, Zubeen Garg and Girish and The Chronicles will perform. We are expecting Rabbi Shergill to join us," Mahanta added.