By N. Mohendro Singh
It is a nice experience that the Sangai Festival, a routine memento of the Department of Tourism, Government of Manipur has provided a temporary sigh of relief of disillusioned masses in this troubled state with confused aspirations. It is paradoxically interesting to see a mass of kachha stalls on the dirty and dusty ground signaling the commencement of the so-called Sangai Festival without Sangai Dance of the poor animal threatened and visibly endangered, (Sangai) and also without enthusiastic involvement of Tour Operators and Tourist Guides.
Well, Manipur has witnessed a series of Sangai Festivals and may witness in future also. But any major intervention of this kind of extravaganza should be, — as matter of conceptual clarity and practical relevance, — guided by three indispensable components:
a) Defined objectives and vision
b) Lasting relevance, and
c) Practical feasibility.
The same handloom items have been the face-saving commodities of all kinds of exhibitions including Sangai Festival; perhaps symbolizing the acute weakness of going by the same beaten track while the whole world has been given a new exciting spirit and hope unleashed by Speed, Scale and Size. The spirit of modern era gets lost.
Let me begin with the basic theory of tourism. It is all about demand and supply. On demand side, we have: —
• Recreational and educational attractions, and
• Good weather.
On the supply side we have:
• Shopping complex and
• Comfortable environment.
They will determine the level of comfort and duration of stay which further determines the so-called Tourism Multiplier.
Both demand and supply forces are brought into play by the efficient Tourist Operators; — a group of committed professionals, individuals, groups and organizations. Don`t think that Tourism is an isolated baby born without parent. It is very much a social output, – a fine output of better management of human relationships at different stages, vertically and horizontally. Much more important is the fact that we have to capture the human mind with the human touch and professional maturity. The standard of social hospitality and social environment is decidedly crucial. How can we think of tourism in Manipur as Livelihood? This is perhaps a basic challenge. How can we motivate the educated youths to take up this job? Absolutely a practical professional approach of projectisation could be an encouraging attempt.
Of course, there are many types of tourists. It is difficult to generalize the pessimism. But the most basic knowledge required is how to go about against so many odds and handicaps imposed by open defiance, militant conservatism and animosity of small men. However, I am constrained to tell you of the well accepted benefit of employment-multiplier of the “smokeless industry”. Right now, one employment in tourism sector creates employment of 2.36 persons (say 3) in other sectors. This is what we call Employment Multiplier accompanied by the painless transfer of income. As such, it may be hopefully assumed that a reasonable level of tourism development in Manipur has enough potential to reduce the spectre of unemployment and poverty. But we should not forget that Empowerment, Capacity Building and Development should go together. Has the Department of Tourism taken note of the established facts of economic relationship?
The next question is who is key player in the hospitality industry? Necessarily the key players are Tour Operators and Tourist Guides. Of course, by this the role of the government is not undermined. But by and large, tourism as such is very close to self employment. While the support base of the public utility service is required for a successful tourism entrepreneur, he is expected to acquire four distinct qualities such as; —
1) Some educational background,
2) Command over language (English/Hindi)
Remember, `trust` is most important, because it is a product of integrity, consistency, competence, openness and loyalty. It is necessarily a rare asset of any community.
The Sangai Festival should devote a substantial part of their exercises to grooming a group of young professionals having commitment rooted in domestic institutions. Otherwise, one time solo dance during the kind of extravaganza could at best be a piece of fairy tale, — not getting itself institutionalized as long term professional pursuit. This aspect demands a careful attention of the Government of Manipur, particularly the Department of Tourism.
Let me again tell you of three kinds of activities involved in the process of development of Tourism Industry in order to reinforce the contention. The primary activities consist of Hotels, Transport, Travel Agency and Destination improvements. The secondary activities consist of supply of goods and services for hoteliers, caterers, transport agencies, retail shops, bank facilities, ticketing and shopping. The third activities consist of entertainments, public utility, special festivals and sports etc. Can we act on the third activity without any basic reference to the primary activities? Can we put the cart before the horse? In fact, any planned intervention cannot ignore the evolution or stages and also “relationship management”.
The tourism multiplier depends largely upon the income-expenditure ratio at a particular stage and also upon what the market can bear. The general pattern of tourist expenditure is that 30% of the expenditure is on accommodation, 25% on food and drinks, 5% on internal transport, 10% on recreation and entertainment, 25% on purchase and 5% on sundry items. If the local economy is able to produce the goods and services that the tourists demand, the greater will be multiplier effect. The fluctuations in the general pattern of expenditure cannot be ruled out depending upon the stage of tourism development. The development process is marked by four stages, namely: Discovery, Development, Maturity and Decline.
The tourism policy should have a built-in-mechanism to address the operational concerns to ensure that the employment and income multiplier is maintained at optimum level. A time has come for the Government of Manipur to undertake an exhaustive study and identify the stage of tourism development in the state. Otherwise the Policy Mistake may negate the benefits of isolated exercises such as the Sangai Festival. In fact the Sangai Festival should be an integral part of the tourism policy. The Sangai Festival without tourism policy speaks volume. There is need for a closer interaction between the private players and the Government.
Tourism is not solely meant for expenditure; but more for revenue earning. Today Tourism Governance has increasingly acquired the rising intensity of professionalization and projectisation. Looked at from the broader perspective for a dynamic contribution and also far away from the basic identity of Hospitality Enterprise, the Sangai Festival, 2011, by and large, conveys just a minimal message. Yes, the Sangai Festival is important, but more important is the way the Festival is managed and much more important is the SPIRIT with which the Festival is organized.