(Retired Deputy General Manager of IOCL)
(Can be reached at -firstname.lastname@example.org)
The green corridor of East India is full of a lot of tourist places. With the changed economic policy, a lot of emphasis has been given to boost tourism in India. Especially in general and in specific, it is said that the economy of Northeast India can be drastically improved by promoting tourism. At present we are perfecting our economic legislation on one hand and on the other hand we are attempting to simplify procedure to cope with the requirement of the globalized economy. The process is very complicated and it demands a long period so that the benefit can be permeated evenly to all sections of the population and all parts of the country. That is why quick opening of the tourism front may bring in many social disorders that may not be easily reversible.
This is true that tourism industry cannot be ignored in this fast-changing economic scenario. Many regions of India have increased tourism revenue earning in the last couple of years thereby using the tourism potentials in finding a partial solution to the unemployment problem.
Tourists can be broadly classified as domestic and international tourists. And tourism can be classified based on the purpose for which tourists visit a destination.
Normally, the activities indulged in by many foreign tourists disturb many of us but their spending capacity over the domestic tourists keep them at the centre of attention, in the growth plan of the tourism industry.
It is emphasized that by encouraging activity-oriented tourist circuits the unwanted component emerging out of the tourism business can be maintained at lowest amount and the revenue earnings from the activity-oriented tourist is manifold higher than that of the revenue earnings from the general merry making tourists.
Out of the activity-oriented tourism, broadly the following activity circuits can be easily developed to boost the tourism industry of the Northeast.
Visit to wildlife sanctuaries: There are several wildlife sanctuaries in the Northeast but the infrastructure required to market these sanctuaries in light of the tourism industry is yet to develop. Angling can be a major component of the wildlife activity circuit and can draw large numbers of tourists, resulting in huge revenue earning along with the employment. The employment generated shall be in the angling locations without pulling the persons to the already crowded urban areas. The Golden Masher is, perhaps, the most valuable possession of our rivers. Already sport angling is popular among the nature lovers who also care for the conservation of this valued possession. Angling competition for golden masher can attract a lot of foreign tourists if proper infrastructure for transportation and stay for the tourists can be developed on the angling sites, besides giving wide publicity through the appropriate forum for a reach-out to the anglers.
Sports tourism can be another activity circuit, in this circuit the boat races organized in numbers of location in lower Assam it can play a vital role in attracting tourists from all over the globe. The snake-boat race of Kerala can be seen as an example to develop our traditional boat races organized in places like Sualkuchi, Ulabori, Mandia, Dhubri etc districts. The standard of these traditional boat races are comparable with the snake boat race of Kerala.
Sanatorium: Slowly it is emerging as a lifestyle and also the need for the highly placed professionals to keep themselves out of their work place for a while to rejuvenate their working spirit. During these short holidays, one would like to be completely away from their working environment. The only requirements for these sought-after destinations are clean air, scenery & green environment, cool climate, good connectivity and general safety. The Northeast has everything in plenty, once the peace prevails, this circuit can be marketed enormously. A golf-links shall be an added attraction for the sanatoriums. A sanatorium with a golf-link will be second to none in attracting wealthy domestic and foreign tourists of high profile. These sanatoriums may also turn out to be the favourite destinations as corporate meeting places.
Pilgrimage is considered as a sleeping giant of our tourism industry only this activity can attract large number of tourists to visit any destination. Utilizing this as the main theme to boost tourism the state Government of Kerala marketed their state as God's Own Country. The Northeast has numbers of ancient pilgrimage spots that can be publicized to attract large number of tourists from outside the state.
There are some natural marvels available in the region. These are tourist destinations. The world's largest river island Majuli, the limestone caves and waterfalls of Meghalaya, snowy peaks of Arunachal Pradesh and the secrecy of birds suicide at Jatinga etc., to name a few, are all potential destinations.
Utmost care should be taken while liberalizing tourism industry in view of the fact that attempts are on by different pressure groups of the industry to start casino and other gambling establishments to attract tourists. The arguments put forward are that the Indian tourist destinations are lacking in providing entertainment facilities and leisure activities. Some small states have already started yielding to this pressure and slotting machines have been installed in five-star hotels. It is also propagated that lack of these facilities, India is losing a large number of foreign tourists and these tourists are diverted to the other neighbouring countries where these facilities are available in abundance. The pressure groups also feel that by opening casino and other legal gambling establishments, the job opportunities will increase and this will also increase the government revenue earning, which the government is losing to the illegal gambling activities. One has to be very careful while opening these facilities for the tourism industry. The fast growth of tourism industry centring around gambling may create social problem in the long run.
The success on utilization of our tourism potentials will not only be measured by the revenue earning and the employment generations but by keeping away the malignant consequence of it from our age old value systems and cultural heritage.