Even though budget tourists have shown a remarkable increase in the last decade, Meghalaya Government wants to revive the tourism industry by adopting a revised strategy of ‘high value, low volume’ as its new mantra and promote prominent tourist destinations that would cater to the economic interest of the local people.
Simply put, it implies that the state would be eyeing the niche tourists among the 1.3 million who visited Meghalaya in the past year or so. The message is clear: try and attract the high-end tourists even though the budget tourists make for the bulk of the stats.
Meghalaya Secretary for tourism D. Vijay Kumar, who is currently rewriting the script of a new model tourism doctrine, said that the policy formulation was in the final stage and it is likely that the Chief Minister Conrad Sangma would be unveiling it at his Independence Day address.
The challenge is to rediscover the tourism industry after COVID pandemic lent it a body blow that not just paralysed the local economy but also concomitantly shattered the dreams of many a private entrepreneur. If the new doctrine is indeed adopted by the government, it would surely imply that the hundreds of private guest houses, road-side eateries and local handicraft shops might also have to rethink their strategy for survival. For, these enterprises largely thrive on budget-tourists.
According to Kumar, between 2011 and 2019, the footfall of tourists doubled from 6.5 lakh to 13 lakh yearly. This upward graph may be somewhat flattering but the policymakers are going to seek out “high value” tourists who would be less in number but would spend more open-handedly than not.
The other key component of the new tourism package is to create a blueprint for promoting prominent tourist destinations that would cater to the economic interest of the local people.
Elaborating, Kumar said as per records with Tourism Department, the tourists paid on an average a paltry Rs 20 for entering the various popular destinations for scenic beauty and recreation. This is ridiculously low by any standard. To make it more sustainable for the local entrepreneurs, the government is going to upscale the rates for entry into all the destinations. To take it forward, the department has constituted ‘Eco-Tourism Committees at each of the tourist destinations. They are being kept in the loop for fixing the fees and tying up operational details.
As part of the package, upscaling the hospitality training of some 500 local individuals is underway. Already two batches have been successfully groomed as to how to take care of the tourists. Efforts are on to provide institutional finance to the entrepreneurs.
As the upend tourists prefer to get away destinations involving minimum time and travelling, far less gruelling journeys, the plan is afoot to bolster air traffic arrangement connecting the state capital. Besides, the existing daily flight connecting Kolkata, the government is in the process to introduce flights linking Delhi. If all goes well, two-way air service is going to be operational by October this year, Kumar disclosed.
The Secretary is of the view that COVID may have had a disastrous effect on tourism, but the pandemic has also enabled the government to rethink its strategy to make it sustainable for all concerned. One of the key strategies, Kumar informed, is to sell Meghalaya as a haven since the state has had relatively low COVID positive cases.
Source: Shillong Times