Lethargic approach to tourist circuit projects

NON-completion of the land acquisition formalities related to tourist circuit projects at Ningthoukhong, Phubala and Moreh areas is without any doubt anti-thesis to claims that the state government is seriously focused to tap the vast potential in the tourism sector. Though initiatives for beautification of the historic Kangla fort, as part of the tourism development plan has seen significant progress in the last many months, it is disheartening to learn that plans for developing tourist circuits at tourist spots such as Ningthoukhong and Phubala in Bishnupur district and Moreh border town in the newly created Tengnoupal district are yet to take flight, regardless of the ministry of tourism sanctioning requisite funds for these projects. In-spite of development in and around Kangla fort generating public applause as the beautification work came into full public view when the government launched the Imphal Evening programme on October 2, there is apprehension over whether the ministry funds for tourism projects at Ningthoukhong and Phubala, which include construction of eco huts, recreation centre for elderly people, etc., and at Moreh where a cultural centre is being envisioned, would be lost on account of inordinate delay to finalise acquisition of land. Even though officials contended that the tourist circuit components at Moreh and in Bishnupur district would be initiated soon after the process of the panchayat general election scheduled for October 7 is over, it is questionable why the land acquisition process could not be completed already as the project completion deadline will lapse next year, three years after Manipur got the Central government’s nod to implement the project.

Such inordinate delays compels one to ponder whether the golden rules that perception of planners, policy-makers and common people towards tourism guides the process of a healthy development in this vital sector have been undermined by authorities concerned. From industrial point of view, experts are of the view that tourism promotion should follow a marketing-oriented approach, so that it can stand as a productive sector amidst the competitive tourism market environment. On account of the unprofessional tourism development scenario in the state being experienced at the juncture it could be safely concluded that the policy makers have been ignoring the crucial fact that for the tourism industry to flourish and contribute to the state’s economy one should learn to cater to the demands of incoming tourists, which in Manipur’s context will be in ensuring better rural tourism facilities. Failure to effectively tap the huge tourism potential in the state for decades also reflects that development of tourism sector is being handled in a very casual manner rather than following the mandatory principles such as fixing strategies, setting goals and priorities and following up with an authentic action plan. Moreover, there is an urgent need to know the expectation and demand of tourists to develop the industry as per the present international, national and regional demand, for recreational demand of tourists has been witnessing quite an interesting change over the years. At a point of time, tourist’s main aim was to see the places of regional importance. But at present the traditional holidaying has notably changed to a new trend centred on ‘activity holidays’, where tourist prefers to take part in different recreational activities while visiting a new region. They are also environmentally and socially sensitive and seek better designed, less polluted destinations, bypassing badly managed destinations that have environmental and social problems. Thereby, ignoring the importance of ensuring basic tourism infrastructure beyond the limits of Imphal lacks justification.

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