Cross learning on Tourism and ways for growth of Tourism in Manipur

James Khangenbam *

Day 10: Sangai Festival 2014 : Concluding Show at BOAT :: November 30 2014
Day 10: Sangai Festival 2014 : Concluding Show at BOAT on November 30 2014 :: Pix : Khaba Yumnam

Manipur Tourism Forum organized a seminar during the last Manipur Sangai Festival where resource person spoke on many aspects of tourism. From dimensional view like 'land lock to land linked delivered by Professor Amar Yumnam as Manipur becomes the gateway to South East Asia. Many topics were discussed at the conference hall of Hotel Imphal by the Classic on 22nd November 2014.

Here is a one-to-one interview with PK Dong - Father of Sikkim Tourism and Raj Basu founder, Help Tourism, West Bengal and often called Gandhi of Tourism. Here is an excerpts:

Q & A with Pk Dong

Q: We would like to know your initiative in Sikkim that makes you call the Father of Sikkim Tourism?
A: What we realize is that there was a potential for tourism in Sikkim, we thought we should have some plan like strategic concept where we can shape our vision our mission and way forward how to achieve those things, so we thought the vision should be to make it a premium eco tourism destination in the world - that was our vision. And with that vision we thought of - to make tourist also happy and people those who are working in tourism industry they should also be happy. The visitors as well as the residents should be happy that is one of the missions that we have to work on. So we work in that one and we thought it is not on the deployment of infrastructure which is essential but also marketing so that is why we focus on this two important aspects and I think that has paved the growth of tourism in Sikkim.

Q: How many years have you dedicated and what are the struggles that you came across?
A: One of the challenges is to motivate the youth that there is a potential for their employment and business opportunities in tourism sector. Most of the youths they look for jobs in the government sector only but now they have realize government jobs are saturated. We are happy to see the youth opening up a traditional restraurant with ethnic food. They are going into hoteliering. Some of them are doing transport that is a good sign.

Q: There is a huge flow of tourist?
A: Yes they are coming up.
It is not only the unique tangible attraction of Sikkim but one most important attraction of Sikkim is the Peace. It is the most peaceful State in North East region.

Q: What influence you to work on Tourism?
A: It is accidental. I had only one dream in my life, it was to travel and see the world. I forgot that I come from a poor family but my dream was to travel the world. I use to read books there was no geographic channel in our times. After reading books of geography and history I wish I could travel, I use to tell my friends when I was in school that if I ever get money in lottery, I will travel around the world but that is what helps me to come into tourism. It is more accidental that I came to tourism, it was unplanned. Tourism was in infancy when I join in the sixties.

Q & A with Raj Basu - popularly known as Gandhi of Tourism

Q: What are you speaking in the seminar today?
A: I will be speaking on rural tourism and responsible tourism because these are both well connected. It is not a CSR activity but it is the DNA of tourism. Why it is necessary for North Eastern States like Manipur to concentrate more on responsible and rural tourism because it involves the local community and more than eighty five percent of our areas are rural areas and when we talk about festival in tourism and all we first think about nature, you see the Sangai Festival we are talking about Sangai the brow anthelered deer which is the only species which is found over here, so under such circumstances it is necessary that the entire policy shouldn't be a tourism policy but rural and responsible tourism policy.

Q: Opinion on craft tourism where tourists come and see the work in progress of the craftsmen.
A: It is not only about showcasing what we have but we call it intangible, so it is experiential part of the tourism because we have so deep rooted traditions and so unique which the world does not know, so how does it matter if you are giving a five star hotel or something until and unless you do not give him the local experience and the local experience is this trend because when you say to make a hotel we should have very trained people from tourism.

Our people has been trained in the tradition and that is the strength of tourism so utilize that so when you are thinking of taking a tourists to a village, the basics of the hospitality and comfort can always be organize, it is not that difficult portion a bit but how you reach and make that person the visitor a part of your community. How he goes back as a part of Manipur - he carries back with him is what we have to do actually. So the entire process of our rural is very slow and the person who comes from Urban background - he comes from a very fast background, so it is basically deurbanizing him and making him bestowed with the entire traditional and very deep rooted heritage way of life.

Q: Any success story you want to share?
A: We have got lots of success stories; we actually are the mother network for about 2000 home stays rooms in the entire east to northeastern India. All along the bordering areas because cross border tourism for peace is our priority and it nurtures better people to people relations along the border - that we have already shown different models. We have created a lot of sub different models in the last 30 years and we are already hands on into one of the projects at Loktak Lake. I would not call it a project, it is a people initiative at Loktak Lake in Thanga - it is by the Thanga youths and Loktak eco tourism society. It is already on - the work is already started and you will get to see more about it in days to come.

Q: You are given the title 'Gandhi of Indian tourism?
A: It is because of our very simple living in this Indian sub continent and of course the thought process, the intellectuality that we get from our forefathers through the traditional way of living with nature, which is a very high intellectual belonging and which we inherited, so putting that together people often say that. It carries on something what people indeed tourism industry across the globe think it that way, it is not me who think it that way.

* James Khangenbam wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on May 31 2015.

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