Opinion: Are limited cab and bike taxi options hurting tourism in Northeast?

Priyanka Chakrabarty

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Guwahati: Upon arriving in the Northeast's financial epicentre Guwahati, tourists will be spoiled for choices in the cab front. Apart from national and international giants like Ola, Rapido, and Uber, they would also have access to local services like the Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC) cabs and the interestingly-named Smartocabs. However, once they step out of the Assam capital, luck is bound to run out.

“I was stunned to see the fares in Arunachal Pradesh", Pankhi Sarma, a Guwahati resident who recently visited the frontier state for work, informed Business North East. Despite the central as well as state governments' resolve to boost the tourism potential in the Northeast, a less-than-thriving transport network and exorbitant prices can play a spoilsport outside the economic hubs. "In several places across the Northeast, not just tourist cab services, but also the Uber, Ola, Rapido etc charge more than the amount that is displayed", said Sarma.

Arguably, tourism in the region has grown by leaps and bounds. But several hurdles persist.

Another person who recently travelled to Itanagar, said that the transport network in the Arunachal Pradesh capital is quite robust and the fares are affordable. However, trouble starts when one ventures outside the capital. “In Itanagar, the transport system is quite good but outside Itanagar, in Arunachal Pradesh, the transport and communication are not very good", said the person, requesting anonymity.

Inarguably, the tourism potential of the Northeast is being impeded fewer taxi and bike services for inward movement. A stay in Guwahati will be hassle free. It is also quite easy to find affordable taxis from Guwahati to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya and one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the country. However, it is quite difficult to find cab and bike services in towns outside the capitals, including some of the larger ones.

This was confirmed to Business NorthEast by ASTC cab drivers who informed that they do not go to other states. Their operations are largely restricted to Guwahati. Smarto cabs taxi that operates across the Northeast seems to be making inroads in customers' mind , but it is still a niche product. As development in the region is very Guwahati-centric, the concerned authorities face a major hurdle in promoting tourism in all corners of the states. Lack of such facilities also hampers industrial activity. 

A city person moving to a village or smaller town in Assam or Northeast for work is compelled to resort to traditional modes of transport like rickshaws, boats, bullock carts, etc. People living in remote or rural locations impacted adversely if they do not own their own vehicles. Tourists visiting these areas are likely to feel even more lost. All these factors, if not taken care of, could reduce the tourism potential in the region.

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Priyanka Chakrabarty