A 2-days Symposium on Community Based Tourism in North East India was organised by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Centre for Policy Research and Anlaysis, IIM Shillong on 10th and 11th of August 2023.
The symposium was inaugurated by Shri. Temjen Imna Along, Hon’ble Minister of Tourism, Government of Nagaland in the presence of Shri. Gaigongdin Panmei, IRS, NEC, Shri Atul Kulkarni, member, BOG of IIM Shillong and Prof. D.P. Goyal, Director, IIM Shillong. The Centre Coordinator of Dr. Kalam Centre, IIM Shillong, Dr. Sanjeev K Ningombam welcomed the dignitaries, esteemed guests and all the participants to the event. Setting the tone of the symposium Dr. Ningombam emphasised on refining CBT scenario in NER and the need for developing a conducive CBT framework in the context of NER.
Prof. D. P. Goyal in his inaugural address highlighted that government agencies and all tourism stakeholders should work in convergence. He emphasised on addressing the pain points, inhibitors of tourism industry using technology. He urged all stakeholders to work collectively towards promoting a seamless tourist experience and in developing a robust ecosystem.
Shri. G. Panmei, addressing the gathering focused on the call for a common Tourism Policy of NER. According to him, the need of the hour is to develop a matrix for circuits across all the 8 states of North East India. Certain issues like ILP and prohibition policy which should be relooked and a common process of registration among those states should be initiated. There is a need to sensitize the people at village level for Community Based Tourism regarding infrastructure, marketing of local cuisines, community participation and other important factors.
Shri. Atul Kulkarni in his address focused on how CBT is an alternative and is also an answer in addressing the disruption in the expanding tourism industry of NER. For this alternative to be successful, the locals need to develop an insight and also to be sensitized as to how CBT can lead to resilient economy at the community level. He also mentioned the role of education and local empowerment leading to tourism value chain creation.
The Chief guest of the symposium Hon’ble Minister of Tourism and Higher Education, Government of Nagaland, Shri. Temjen Imna Along highlighted the importance of experiential tourism at community level as tourism cannot function in a standalone manner. Experience through tourism should be the focus. North Eastern Region should give the experience to the tourists from other states and other countries. Things have changed drastically in last 10 years and with time better connectivity across the states have changed the tourism scenario. He also mentioned that most of the destinations in 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 first day of the symposium had sessions on Community Based Tourism in NER, Role of Government in Developing Tourism Eco-systems and Idea exchange- Best Practices. The discussions had Tourism Directors as speakers from Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. The other speakers included tour operators, homestay aggregator and entrepreneurs from Destination Management Organization (DMOs).
The second day technical sessions were graced by the presence of tour operators, community leaders and academicians. The topics focused on Exploring opportunities under CBT in the context of 4 C’s- conservation, culture, community and commerce, Community concerns and participation and CBT Business Models. The discussions revolved around how local communities can enhance tourism experiences at community level by envisaging on ‘vocal for local’ in the fragile ecosystem of the region, inclusiveness in tourism, leader’s role in leading a community and reviving indigenous practices. The sessions also focused on how tourism at the community level could help to march towards inclusiveness, resilience and sustainability. It was mentioned that the transactions should be relational rather than transactional.
Overall the symposium directed towards the need for a framework that would redefine the structure of CBT in NER with an aim of responsible and sustainable tourism through community participation.
The guest of honour for the valedictory session was the Advisor Tourism & Industry, NEC, Smt. R. Lalrodingi. Her enriching speech threw light on branding Destination Northeast. She emphasised on youth engagement and community participation for documenting folklores across 8 states so that variations in them can be avoided. She also added that the policy framework should take into consideration all possible aspects leading to resilient community.
The valedictory session was graced by the Hon’ble Minister of Social Welfare, Tourism, Arts & Culture and Textiles Shri Paul Lyngdoh and in his speech he highlighted the need to explore the immense potential of harnessing community resources to create a harmonious balance between tourism and indigenous culture which would play a pivotal role in our journey towards sustainable development and cultural preservation. He emphasised on renewed sense of positioning a destination and a roadmap for the future that integrates the ideals of community-Based Tourism into every facet of our planning and execution.
The 2-days symposium was finally concluded with a collective understanding on developing a framework and initiate CBT projects under pilot study in all states of NER.