Friday, June 21, 2024

Meghalaya Tourism


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An advertorial on NDTV Profit this week showcased the unique selling points (USP) of Meghalaya’s tourism circuits. It would have cost the Department a tidy package to get that kind of prime space on a commercial television channel and at prime time! There’s nothing wrong with advertisements except that there is more we are telling the world than our own people. Much has been touted about eco-tourism but very little has gone into building the capacities of villagers who are the real stakeholders in these ventures. Mass training of village tourist guides who will become the real custodians of the economic resources generated from tourism is imperative.

The Tourism Department could do with a master plan that takes into account the strengths of each district. Meghalaya is diverse and each place has its own strengths and weaknesses. The NDTV advertorial is just a curtain raiser and does not really say much about the inherent strengths of Meghalaya as a destination for adventure tourism. A visit to the Mawjymbuin cave on a weekend showed that not even ten tourists have visited it in the past one week. The place used to draw huge crowds when it was sold as a destination for Hindu pilgrims. A protest from the local communities, who did not like the lone stalactite and stalagmite there being portrayed as Shiva’s Lingam has seen a drastic reduction in the number of visitors. Stories around the cave need to be recreated to attract other kinds of tourists. One of the ways of beckoning visitors and holding their interests long after they have departed is to tell them stories of our folklore and myths. This will ensure they repeat those stories to others. Story telling is an art and need not be a dry exercise. Story telling involves songs, dances and other creative expressions. This has yet to take off in Meghalaya.

Some of the tourist destinations that are thriving have happened purely because of private tour operators. But the private-public partnership in Tourism has not really taken off. Community mobilisation is a tedious process but a necessary one. Community partnership in tourism is as important as in any other development project. If the local people are indifferent they will not bother about welcoming tourists and might even be adversarial towards them. Keeping the tourist sites clean and preventing their abuse can only happen when people own up their self-articulated tourism models. Does Government have time to allow this creativity among the knowledge holders in the villages?



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