We are back again with another edition of our [email protected] series. We talked with Sange Tsering, Owner-Operator at Holiday Scout. Sange Tsering is 21 years old and has a diploma in tourism from YMCA, New Delhi. He is from Arunachal Pradesh and did his schooling in the beautiful state. Sange is currently pursuing graduation from DU. He founded Holiday Scout about 3 years ago. Sange is also a passionate photographer and an avid traveler.
It’s really interesting. You are young and still in college, and you have started a venture of your own, Holiday Scout. How did Holiday Scout start?
Well my uncle runs Himalayas Holidays, a renowned travel agency. I was inspired by him since my school days and starting a travel agency of my own was my aim. After finishing school, i opted for a diploma in tourism from YMCA. I started out Holiday Scout with a different approach to the tourism industry. Moreover, I am personally an avid traveler and operating a travel agency came naturally for me.
NE is slowly becoming a tourism hotspot and gaining attention over the past couple of years. What’s the current scenario in the region? What do you think about the future of tourism in this region?
The situation now is better than ever. There is a greater enthusiasm in people to go and explore the North East. Compared to 5 years ago, the attention that NE is getting is very positive and it is going to get better. NE evokes a sense of mystery among people from outside and it encourages them to come and explore this virgin land.
We have seen several State govt. endorsed festivals like Hornbill, Sangai, Tawang Festival etc being organized. Are these tourism festivals drawing in enough attention for your travelers?
To be utterly honest, state govt. sponsored festivals are not as effective as they can be. Perhaps it is due to lack of advertisement. We see advertisement in all formats of media when other states outside the NE conduct such festivals. Our festivals go by and large un-noticed because of lack of such advertisements. The state govt. should ensure that such festivals get prime time advertisement in all formats of media be it print or TV.Though, Hornbill Festival is doing a good job.l It has gone a long way into making Nagaland and NE a big tourist destination. It is now one of the biggest and well know Indian Tourism festival in the global tourist map.
Tourism is a big focus. Govt,. has been pumping funds to promote tourism in the region. What are some of the things that the govt. can do to help private entities like yours to foster tourism and vice-versa?
It is infact a commendable job the govt is doing by infusing much needed funds in the industry. Though a lot still needs to be done.The best known destinations are still very much out of reach for tourists due to the areas being termed either “disputed” or “disturbed”. Better infrastructure is the need of the hour. Also, corruption is taking its toll. Take the festivals for example, they are more of an state govt. officials festival rather than a tourist festival. Most of the visitors are state govt officials. The govt. should let the tourist bodies form an autonomous body and advise it on tourism related matter. Relaxing of permits for tourists will also help. By and large, the steps being taken by the govt. are in the right direction and we believe that in future these steps would pay off greatly.
What’s the most exciting and the most popular NE destination request right now?
That is actually a really hard one to answer. It is a close call between Sikkim, Tawang and Nagaland. each of these place offers something unique to the tourists. But I would have to add that Sikkim in all probability is the most popular destination as of now. It has much to be with good governance and relaxed norms for tourists and good coverage the state has got in media of late. Tawang and Nagaland are equally exciting but falls behind Sikkim due to some factors, most important being infrastructure.
The roads aren’t that good in the NE. Connectivity is a pain point. Have any of your travelers complained about anything esp. from an infrastructure perspective about the NE?
Connectivity indeed is the greatest problem when it comes to NE and it is the thing most travelers complain about. In fact during most tours the road condition is the only complain we get from the tourists. Plus, other infrastructural aspects also lack when compared with rest of India. We need sincere efforts from the govt. to upgrade the present infrastructure of the region. For example, except Sikkim there is not a single world class hotel or resort in the NE.
Apart from the NE, what other destinations does Holiday Scout do?
We basically cover all of India and Bhutan and also South East Asia. The first two years, we focused only on north India and north east India. But since the last 3 months we have included south India and south east Asia as there was much demand for these places. Our Buddhist circuit is among the most sought after plans.
Until a couple of years ago, we hardly hear about tour operators from the region. But nowadays, we are getting to hear quite a lot. How’s the industry doing? Is it becoming somewhat competitive or still to get to that point where it gets competitive?
The tourism industry in the NE, of late, is very vibrant and dynamic. It has to do with the initiative of the govts. concerned. Up until recently, tourists used to visit the NE through travel agents based in either Delhi or Kolkata. But now, the local players are emerging. The youth is filled with a zeal be it any sphere. There is no shortage of entrepreneurs in NE. This is good for the industry. More players means more competition which in turn translates to better quality services to the tourists.
How do you think Holiday Scout stands out from the rest of the tour operators? What’s so special about Holiday Scout that travelers should come to you to get their tour organized?
Well, to begin with, we don’t sell our packages to the tourists. We make them according to the needs of the tourists. So our package differs from person to person. We give them a customized tour package so that the clients are involved in selecting the places they want to visit. WE try to make it as much enjoyable for them as they could. We don’t simply sell them a travel package, we take them for the journey as if we would take a family member. I think that is what makes Holiday Scout a bit different from other players.
What are the challenges that you face operating tours to the NE region?
Red tape! That is the biggest challenge we face in the NE. Most of the regions are out of bound for tourists and a permit to visit those places is not that easy to get, more so for a foreigner. Of late, that has changed for the better but the problem still persists. I hope issuing permits would be less bureaucratic and would take less time to be issued. Tourism can bring about a great change in the regional economy and the red tapism must be done away with. Not saying that there should be no permits, but just that tourist permits should be easier to get.
What’s your favorite holiday destination in the region?
The Himalayan slopes of Sikkim and the valleys of Nagaland. Personally, I like visiting the Mon region the most. It is quite different from other destinations of the NE and I quite feel that I have traveled back in time.
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