The world observes World Tourism Day on September 27 every year with the aim to foster awareness on the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value to the general public. This year, the United Nations World Tourism Organisation had chosen India to host the occasion on the theme ‘Tourism and Jobs: a better future for all’, something that people in Northeast, particularly Nagaland can relate to as the tourism industry is growing in the region over the years. This is one topic that has been much talked and written about in the state owing to the potential of transforming the place into a tourist destination. Government statistics showed that the number of tourists – both domestic and international – have been steadily increasing in the state over the years with the Hornbill Festival becoming one of the main attractions. While growth in tourism industry is noticeable, it is yet to become an economic-driving force and job-creating venture in the state. And it may take some time to turn Nagaland into a tourism hotspot for several reasons.
Growth of tourism industry depends on several factors like safety and security, aviation regulations and accessibility, and infrastructure among others. Do we have these facilities in place? The answer is a resounding no. Every sensible person will consider safety as a priority before visiting another strange land. The people of Nagaland are no doubt hospitable and helpful. The state is perhaps safer than most Indian states for tourists but there is a blot in the minds of the people because of the existence of several insurgency groups. Many people from mainland India still hear sounds of gunshots and see bloodshed when they talk about Nagaland and its sister states in the Northeast. This preconception is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for tourism growth in the region. The state is also a long way to go when it comes to air connectivity and infrastructure, especially roads to interior villages. The fact that inflow of tourist is increasing despite these loopholes clearly indicates that there is huge scope for growth in this sector.
The state government has initiated several strategies, including introduction of tourist police to ensure safety of tourists, encouraging small enterprises such as homestay facility, and turning major events to mini hornbill festivals in order to facilitate consistent inflow of visitors throughout the year. However, a lot needs to be done to make tourism a viable source of income for the people. Besides good publicity, connectivity – both air and road – needs to be enhanced drastically and travel packages streamlined to make travelling easier and organised. The inflow of tourists could grow exponentially once these major problems are solved. If this happens, the state will witness growth in small and medium-sized business, hotel industry, travel agencies, restaurants, and other enterprises. Tourism industry will eventually turn into a driving force of economic growth for the state and major source of income for the people. It may take some time to get there but it’s not impossible.