Over 12 thousand tourists visit national park this year

Locals imparted training for tourist guides in Balpakram

TURA: With an aim to help locals and boost tourism at Balpakram- Garo Hills’ biggest national park, a large number of young boys and girls were given the opportunity to undergo training as guides during a two day programme last week at the entry to Balpakram National Park in Hatisia, South Garo Hills district.
In the training that took place on 12th & 13th of November, close to 220 youth, elders, women SHGs, local Nokmas and staff of BNP participated.
Separate workshops were held for elders, womenfolk and the youth on  homestay ideas, organic farming, chicken rearing, handicrafts, among others.  The youth, in particular, were given intensive training on how to be a successful tour guide, communication skills, time managements, first aid, camping practicals etc.

Organised by the A’chik Tourism Society (ATS) and supported by the management and Staff of Balpakram National Park (Wildlife Division, Forest Department), the programme was funded by the Chief Minister’s Career Guidance Scheme in South Garo Hills.
On the final day of the training, Deputy Commissioner of South Garo Hills, Hubert B. Marak graced the occasion as the Chief guest and gave encouraging words of advice to the young recruits about the potential of tourism.
Others who attended and addressed the participants included Chengreng D. Sangma, Project Manager of District Commerce and Industies Centre (DCIC), Chequevera  Sangma, Tourist Officer of South Garo Hills, Range officer of the national park Chingseng G Momin and members of A’chik Tourism Society.
After the final screening and practicals, 116 guides were selected as the official Balpakram Tour Guides and the Deputy Comissioner handed over the Certificates to the trainees and the Tour Guide Vests to the Ranger Officer of BNP. The guides will be under supervision of the Management of BNP and official vests will be given to the guide on duty.
This training produced a total of 116 locals guides both young and old which includes 15 girls. All the guides are from nearby villages like Hatisia, New Bonbera, Rambil Gittim, New Rompa, Sanbana, Kanai and Mahadeo. Three other young enthusiast from Emangre and one from Siju also attended the training program.
Balpakram National Park (BNP) is one of the 2 National Parks of Meghalaya State, located in the far east corner of Garo Hills bordering Bangladesh and Khasi Hills. It is maintained and managed by Meghalaya Forest Department’s Wildlife Division.
 Tourism in Garo Hills has been witnessing unprecedented rise in recent years and Balpakram has been one of the most sought after destination. This year, up to mid May, Balpakram National Park has recorded tourist footfall of more that 12,000 visitors, the highest recorded visitor till date. 
However, there are no trained tourist guides and adequate staff to handle this huge inflow of tourists to BNP. With this view, A’chik Tourism Society (ATS) approached the Deputy Commissioner of South Garo Hills for financial assistance to organise 2 day Tourist Guide Training Program at Balpakram for the youth of the surrounding six villages adjacent to the national park.

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