A two-day symposium on community-based tourism in North East India began today, organised by IIM Shillong’s Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Centre for Policy Research and Analysis.
The symposium was inaugurated by Temjen Imna Along, the Tourism Minister of Nagaland, in the presence of North Eastern Council (NEC) official Gaigongdin Panmei and those of IIM Shillong.
Coordinator of the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Centre, Sanjeev K Ningombam, emphasised refining the community-based tourism (CBT) scenario and the need for a CBT model in the North East.
IIM Shillong Director Prof DP Goyal mentioned that, for a seamless tourist experience, pain points should be removed and suitable strategies should be developed for promoting ‘Destination North East’.
He highlighted that IIM Shillong has a responsibility to contribute to the region and can do so through its newly-designed ‘Community Immersion Programme’ for its students, where each student is required to visit and stay in rural communities, understand geographical and behavioural dynamics and can contribute by giving back to the communities in the form of sustainable ideas and business models.
Panmei, meanwhile, focused on the call for a common tourism policy. The need of the hour, according to him, is to develop a matrix for circuits across all eight North East states. A World Bank Group study found five segments for special focus – cultural, adventure, nature, agro and health tourism. He mentioned that a common registration process for tourists traveling to the region should be initiated so that the traveler should feel comfortable in planning their trip.
There is a need to sensitise the people at the village level about CBT infrastructure, standardisation of certain food menus, improvement in presentation and packaging and aggressive marketing of local cuisines among other important parameters, he added.
Along highlighted the importance of experiential tourism at the community level, as tourism cannot function in a standalone manner. The North East should give an experience to tourists from other states and other countries. Things have changed drastically in the last 10 years and, with time, better connectivity across the states has changed the tourism scenario, he said.
Along also mentioned that most of the destinations in the North Eastern Region are yet to be explored. In order to experience seamless tourism, linkages should be made and multi-ethnic culture should be promoted.
The inaugural session was followed by three technical sessions revolving around CBT tourism in the North East, the role of government in developing tourism ecosystems, idea exchanges and best practices.
The second day of the symposium will have sessions on exploring business opportunities, developing CBT models and dialogue on community concerns and participation. Paul Lyngdoh, Meghalaya Tourism Minister, will address the valedictory session.