TODAY -

Tourism: The Right Approach

H. Radhakrishna Sharma *

Manipur Sangai Tourism Festival 2013 : Opening day at Hapta Kangjeibung
Manipur Sangai Tourism Festival 2013 : Opening day at Hapta Kangjeibung :: Pix - Arunkumar Thongam



It's time for Manipur Sangai Festival, the festival of festivals of the state of Manipur. But the big question is - Is it heading the way it was conceived and planned for? And are we really getting the desired result? The sheer size of the festival has increased but the footfall of the real Tourist is still negligible with few visitors dropping in to the festival simply because they were in Imphal during that time by default and not as a planned visitor.

Till last year Manipur Sangai Festival has not been able to feature not even in any of the regular itineraries of the major tour operators of the region, leave alone that of major tour operators of India or abroad. We have missed to sensitize these important segments of stakeholders of tourism of the region about the festival so we missed the bus of featuring in any of their itineraries or in their promotional activities and the chance for bringing in more real tourists.

In the last few years India has experienced tremendous social, cultural, political and technological changes. Like in most developing countries of the world, tourism in India is also conceived as a powerful means of attracting the coveted foreign exchange and an easy means of boosting the national economy. Tourism has the potential to promote social development through employment creation, income redistribution and poverty alleviation.

So the Manipur Government's initiative for promotion of tourism by organizing such an event is appreciable but at the same time condemnable because of not being able to bring best out of it and not result oriented despite spending sizeable amount of money for the event. It is time for a reality check, though the Tourism department is putting in an all out effort to make the festival happen in coordination with various other departments but seems still at loss as to who the target audience is going to be.

If at all we need to make the festival worthwhile for the tourism industry to take notice, we need to associate with the major players of the industry from the region and also from the other parts of the country which can be extended to international association in the years to come.

Tourism in general has very beneficial effect on promotion of art and local craft. A sample survey by the Ministry of Tourism has found some very interesting impacts of tourism on the local artists and craftsman.

"The study indicates that about 96% of the total income of the artisan household in Kerala and 90 % in Rajasthan come from the tourism related artisan income. Exposure to tourism activities enhances the scope of employment generation, particularly in the lower income segment of the artisan household…As regards folk artists their average per capita income during the peak tourist season is nearly four times in lean season in both the states" (Bezbaruah MP, 2006).

Records are there to be seen that how much this industry can contribute to the local artisans, craftsmen and folk artists if proper planning is done. Here we should make it a point to support the local artisans, craftsmen and folk artists by making this festival a complete domain for them to sell and promote their product instead of making it a happy hunting ground for already established business houses.

Some observers have rightly compared our festival to Big bazaar or in their words its Bigger Bazaar and its nothing different from that of regular Melas held in every nook and corner of the state except that it is more in a grand scale.

It would have been aptly in sync with the name of the festival if we have an exclusive tour during the festival exploring the endangered Sangai at its natural habitat-the Keibul Lamjao National Park which would have served the very purpose of naming the festival after it and also creating the awareness about the same.

Agreed we have potentials for adventure tourism which need to be harnessed but too much emphasizing on adventure tourism might wrongly project our state to be an adventure destination.

Corrective measures need to be taken so that it is projected to the visitors as culturally and historically important site. Department should come up with a regular conducted city tour at least during the festival so as to facilitate the visitors and which should cover the main tourist spots in and around Imphal like Govindajee Temple, the Kangla, Ima Keithel, Polo ground, State Museum, Moirang & Loktak areas etc etc, which are a must see for the first timers to our beloved mother land.

Tourism is also a vehicle for international understanding by way of bringing diverse people face to face. It is a major contributor to international goodwill and is a means of developing social and cultural understanding among all peoples of the world.

"When the tourist comes in contact with the place he visits and its population, a social exchange takes place. His social background affects the social structure and mode of life of the destination. He is in turn affected by it and sometimes carries back home with him new habits and ways of life"




* H. Radhakrishna Sharma wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao [English Edition]
The writer is Partner, Seven Sisters Holidays, Imphal and Secretary, Manipur Tourism Forum
This article was posted on November 29, 2013.


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