Some people perceived that people in Meghalaya had survived without tourism in the past and they will still be able to survive without tourism in the future, and to them all they want is Inner Line Permit (ILP). Some people don’t even realise that tourists come here simply to pay a visit but not to stay here forever. Others perceived that tourism had helped many rural communes to earn an alternative income from the growing tourism industry in the state and that the implementation of ILP will be the sudden termination of its growth. Therefore, it was quite obvious that the issues of ILP implementation and tourism promotion have been remaining as two contradicting issues for quite sometimes. There are three basic facts that we have to know about the potential form of tourism in Meghalaya and whether or not ILP will affect its growth.
Firstly, the world over is striving towards achieving sustainable development and tourism is one of such promising sustainable industries due to being an industry without smoke. However, we also need to know that there are two major forms of tourism viz. mass tourism which is low priced and hence can attract huge number of visitors during the peak seasons, but at the same time it is short-lived and can exert devastating impact on the environment and hence cannot be considered sustainable, and another form is alternative tourism or eco-tourism which is a responsible form of tourism that attract only high end tourists at all seasons.
Secondly, many rural communes in Meghalaya had been experiencing sudden termination of their sources of earning cash income due to the ban on tree felling and coal mining and hence they need to be provided with sustainable approach of earning livelihood that does not go against environmental policies and community-based rural tourism, which falls under the domain of eco-tourism, is one of such sustainable development approach that can be helpful to achieve the objectives of sustainable development on account of the fact that it is both nature-based and agro-based and its growth is dependent on the capability to maintain pristine natural landscapes and to preserve local culture and the readiness of the host communities to cooperate in the process of sustainable development approach becomes spontaneous as they begin to learn that they can earn cash income through their effort of preserving and promoting local culture, local environment and agriculture.
Thirdly, tourism development in Meghalaya is mainly dependent on nature as the ultimate provider of tourism resources and tourism products, and hence we need to understand that mass tourism approach will heavily bring a huge devastating impact on the carrying capacity of the landscapes in many areas. Hence, it is important to see that all efforts should gear up towards attracting only eco-tourists or high end tourists who really want to learn and appreciate the uniqueness of our culture and the beauty of our natural and quasi natural landscapes. High end tourists will always pay a visit no matter of the price and no matter if ILP is implemented or not. Investors in the field of tourism or in other sectors as well will always invest no matter if ILP is implemented or not because they will always want to promote their business. In fact, ILP will help to attract only high end or responsible tourists and keep the irresponsible ones at bay.
Based on the above facts, it is quite recommendable for policy makers to spend more time on making efforts on promoting and facilitating community-based rural tourism approach for the benefit of the host communities by ensuring delegated power or citizen control on tourism industry instead of spending time in debating and merging the issue of ILP with the issue of tourism promotion.