Name: Dr. Kasturi Mandal
Theme: Entrepreneurship and Innovation
Travel and tourism is growing world-wide and outpacing GDP growth .Tourism can be one of the key components of North East (NE) Economy. However, tourism as an industry is yet to take off to the desired level to attain sustainable development in NE,especially in the context of the growth of local SMEs; despite campaigns like “Incredible India” and schemes like “Swadesh Darshan” and PRASAD. There exists a scope for NE to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth making tourism a driver of through growth of local SME. North East Tourism can provide an edge to India over other source countries like China, India, Korea, US and Europe. However, a systemic and structured approach is required. Many countries have transformed their economies by mainstreaming tourism as driver for economic growth realizing thier tourism assets; like Maldives with its “one island one resort” policy for its chain of islands. Bhutan, in spite of its restrictions for “responsible tourism”, international visitors have increased more than ten times in the last decade. More recently, Myanmar implemented a master tourist plan focusing on six strategic programs, registering the highest growth in Foreign Tourists, about 73% over the last six years.
To provide a roadmap for sustainable development of tourism in north east existing data on parameters critical for assessing status and potential for North East tourism was found to be inadequate for comprehensive analysis. The NISTADS survey was carried out over three states: Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram. The survey involved interactions with tourists, locals, service providers, experts and policy makers. The results from the survey indicate opportunities and untapped potential for North East tourism. Annual tourists, by initial estimates, are reported to be about 16 million in the three states and tourist expenditure is about Rs.60 billion. For this to grow four fold, there is both need and scope for growth in both in the number of tourists and per tourist expenditure. NE tourism must therefore attract more numbers of foreign nationals and of higher-spending capacity. With their wildlife, natural beauty and cultural heritage, the scope of North East Tourism is high. The major gaps and challenges as identified in the survey are lack of quality of service, inadequate information Quality and Access, inefficient connectivity etc. Tourist Infrastructure (TI) index computed for each tourist site shows a wide variation across sites. Coefficient of variation is 52% in Assam, 32% in Meghalaya, and, 43% in Mizoram. Some tourist sites are likely to be performing below potential.
Tourism, especially nature tourism, cannot be a sustainable economic driver unless it is matched with the carrying capacity of the tourist sites. A careful policy for sustainable tourism is needed for each tourist location. Sustainability can be ensured by estimating, and following carrying capacity in terms of the region’s natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution and social systems. Planning and management of Sustainable/responsible tourism is imperative for tourism to survive for which carefully designed policy and directives are needed.
This paper therefore highlights insights from tourism industry in NE, identifies the gaps/challenges and explores how sustainable development could be made possible through a sustainable tourism industry.
Keywords: sustainable development, tourism, NE
Kasturi Mandal is working as Scientist at CSIR-NISTADS. Dr. Mandal primarily works in the area of Technology Foresight, Comparative STI policy studies, cross country analyses. Holding a PhD in environmental chemistry from Jadavpur University, she has undertaken collaborative projects withseveral international agencies like Russian Academy of Sciences, World Bank, ILO. She had prepared factsheets on India Science Technology and Innovation for the Horizon 2020 program of the EU. She has published papers in several international journals, book chapters and has authored two books.