Tourism in Northeast India: A sheer case of misplaced priorities


On September 27 every year, nations and states all over the world celebrate World Tourism Day in order to raise awareness on the role of tourism within the international community and to demonstrate how it affects social, cultural, political and economic values worldwide.

In the midst of this celebration, it may be recalled that the United Kingdom and Canada recently issued an advisory wherein they asked citizens to either cancel or reconsider their visit to Northeast India in view of major incidents of terrorism and insurgency. They cited the shooting of 14 people in Assam's Kokrajhar last month and the killing of 18 soldiers by NSCN-Khaplang rebels in Manipur last year to prove their point.

In this regard, it may be recalled that the recent hulla baloo over the promotion of Assam Tourism with its campaign 'Awesome Assam', invited a lot of criticism on the pretext of promoting tourism in the state. A question to be asked in this respect is how can roping in actors and actresses as brand ambassadors of states improve the experiences of tourists. Assam government recently roped in Priyanka Chopra after incurring a huge investment for the same and likewise goes for the government of Arunachal Pradesh who recently brought in John Abraham.  It would have been better if the government took out some time in their sanity to improvise the conditions of railway stations, airports and other places of historical and cultural significance by working towards making environment better for tourists and making them feel at home.

Infact, there should be provisions for promoting the native actors and actresses in their own state and making them ambassadors. Movies like Rock on 2 may have been shot at Meghalaya in the name of promoting tourism but the fact is how much boost will tourism sector attain through movies alone. Why not invest time and money to promote upcoming artists from the respective states to give them an impetus to rise and shine so as to inspire others as well! The cast and crew of 'Oonatah', a Khasi movie by renowned director Pradip Kurbah, a movie that earned laurels from all over can serve as a good example.

Again, the failure of Assam government to control the menace of poaching in the state and then proudly using the same Rhino in the logo of Assam tourism is a pretty hypocritical move. On the one hand, a tourist gets news of rampant rhino poaching in the state and on the other, he is lured by the same rhino in the logo of Assam tourism deeming Assam as 'Awesome'.

Promoting tourism is not about investing huge sums of money for unproductive causes that yield no fruits in the long run. It is about connecting with the hearts and mind of people, to make them realize the presence of a unique, exorbitant culture that, although different and new can make a person feel at home. Imparting a sense of security and oneness is what promotes a tourism. Goa did not need a movie or an ambassador to promote its tourism! All it did was emphasize on its unique and diverse culture to attract people from all over the world.  It is high time that the government start promoting matters of substance rather than the surface level promotion.

Shweta Raj Kanwar

(All opinions expressed in the article are the writer's own and TNT-The Northeast may or may not hold the same views)