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Posts Tagged ‘Manipur Tourism’

Manipur State Govt firmly believes that promoting tourism into Manipur can bring about socio-economic development of the state. The Central Govt (esp. Ministry of tourism, and North Eastern Council under Ministry of Development of North Eastern Regions) has been also supporting the State Govt by providing huge funding assistance for tourism related projects. Main activity on this regard is to organise annual tourism festival titled ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ in the month of November (21-30). sangai-loktak-articleThe expenditure for 2014 event was about Rs 2.5-3.0 crores and the cost of 2015 event may be Rs. 3.0-5.0 crores. Since large sum of public money (collected through taxes) has been spent for conducting this festival by the State Govt, it is appropriate to ask and rather be made a mandatory task for State Govt to evaluate economic appraisal of the festival project along with a social impact analysis. Such an evaluation report must be produced by the State Govt as ‘white paper’ periodically to access ‘pros and cons / impact’ of every Manipur Sangai Festival being conducted.

Any course of discussion on ‘whether current format of the festival is appropriate and what programs should be added/removed, or there is another possible way of conducting the festival in an entirely different approach’ ought to be guided by the basic principle that “Manipur Sangai Festival has been devised to promote Manipur globally for its tourism potentials and by doing so, bring about socio-economic development to the local population within Manipur State”. Also, we need to be clear with our adopted strategy on this festival – ‘Is the spending on the Manipur Sangai Festival an investment or just mere expenditure; i.e. are we creating a sustainable capacity building system for the local economy, or are we just enjoying ourselves by spending huge sum of money for few days in the name of tourism promotion?’. This article rather focuses on an alternative way of conducting the festival than being a critic to the current festival format.

There is an analogy topic that we can correlate to: ‘how Olympic Games are conducted in various countries on rotation, or how National Games are conducted in various states of India on rotation’. The host country for Olympic Games (or the host state for National Games in India) aims to make the maximum benefits from having the sports event in their country (or their state, in case of National Games) through creating new infrastructures (e.g. roads, bridges, markets, houses, water/electricity/gas supply facilities), new engagement frameworks (e.g. coordination among various ministries of the Govt for public order and utility services supply, involving public and private organizations, including students and staffs from schools/universities, sharing public support tasks with local municipal bodies), and new promotional means (e.g. extensive marketing to increase visits by tourists during the sports event and also later on for the following months/years). Thus, there are always some diverse options in every planning on where/how to spend a huge sum of money for executing a big event. Our focus for Manipur Sangai Festival also ought to think from this perspective of ‘How best is the way to spend the allocated budget for the festival (e.g. Rs. 5 Crores) into what activities for short term and long term gains to people and land of Manipur?’

The name ‘Sangai’ has been chosen to represent the annual Manipur tourism festival by the State Govt; maybe because this title has global appeal due to the relevance of endangered ‘Sangai’ species to global audience. How about we try to imagine this scenario for the sake of analysis – What if ‘we choose to conduct this Manipur tourism festival with special focus around the villages/towns where this special deer is located (i.e. those around Keibul Lamjao National Park and Loktak Lake)’!

Often, there is this query of ‘Should development come first, or should security (i.e. better law and order) come first before anything else (including tourism activities)?’ In addition to just conducting a tourism festival to promote tourism potential, Manipur State Govt has the duty to develop infrastructure and enhance living standard of villages/towns within Manipur. So, how about hitting two targets with just one arrow? – By planning the Manipur Sangai Festival around villages/towns of Keibul Lamjao and Loktak Lake; such as, by having more event venues, involving local people/organisations, delegating tasks to staffs at Govt offices (schools/colleges and other Govt departments) and administrative officials at various sub-divisions/gram-panchayats, and a series of well-created programs in those villages/towns.

The tourism festival ought to be more of people’s event rather than just being an event for ministers and higher officials of the State Govt. There is no ‘actual high risks of security’ scenario for having tourism programs and event venues in villages/towns around Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao, and rather it may be just a myth that there is no security outside the state capital; or, maybe it is just a sign of being laziness for ministers and higher officials of the State Govt to visit places outside the Imphal Municipal Council areas. Since the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ is for promoting tourism potentials of the whole state, tourism events can be still conducted at those already chosen venues of the Imphal Municipal areas; yet the central focus can be given to “villages/towns around Sangai’s home”. Such an approach will facilitate in (1) creating new businesses by private entrepreneurs in these villages/towns, (2) providing better roads and modern utility services (electricity, water, medical) which have been neglected for years, (3) exchanging of ideas and modern knowhow between people of city and villages/towns. In due course of time, we can see villages/towns (such as Thanga, Ithing, Karang, Moirang, Moirang Khunou, Kairenphabi, Kumbi, Ithai, Wangu, Nongmaikhong, Khordak, Tera Khunou, Laphupat, Phoubachao, Komlakhong, Uchiwa, Mayang Imphal, Toubul, Kwashiphai, Nachou, Bishenpur, Oinam, Nambol, Yaingangpokpi, Wangoi, Tentha, Wabagai, Hiyanglam, Ningthoukhong) developing in a faster pace on par with Imphal Municipal areas.

Various independent events being conducted in Manipur till date can be included as special programs to the list of programs in the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ for the benefit of local people of villages/towns around Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao (rather than facilitating profit earnings to few individuals who owns large restaurants or hotels or tour operators); such as Fish sales festival, Pineapple sales festival, Handicraft/Handloom product sales festival, sports festival, Save Loktak event, Save Sangai Event, Food festival. Tour routes to enjoy such variety of mini-festival events during the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ can be created through these villages/towns for local tourists as well as national and international tourists. Various developmental schemes of the State Govt and Central Govt can be redirected towards organizing ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ in these villages/towns under advanced and proper coordinated planning; such as (1) development of roads and cleanliness drive by villagers/NGOs through NREGA (Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act), (2) various development funds under Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, and Department of MAHUD (Municipal Administration, Housing & Urban Development), (3) enterprise support funds from central ministry of MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) and Department of Commerce & Industry, (4) promotion of local culture under Department of Art and Culture, (5) developing of local agribusinesses under Department of Agriculture, and Department of Fisheries, (6) preserving ecology and biodiversity under Department of Forest and Environment.

If we conduct ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ in such an approach, percentage of having more inclusive participation from public (individuals and organisations) may be higher. Benefits out of the annual tourism festival are likely to be more sustainable, and a long lasting social impact may be delivered to the local population and land within Manipur state. Thus, we need to explore other ways of conducting Tourism festivals that make the best usage of available financial and manpower resources.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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Realities of life start to bite us when we are around 25-35yrs of age. We begin to look at our lives with more seriousness about the past and the future. By now, we acknowledge two facts – (1) Money (through a salaried job or an earning source) is crucial for living. Having a good philosophy for humanity and a non-income earning hobby aren’t enough in life. (2) Our parents are not young anymore and we need to offer our support at their old age. This is more important because, we need act as role models to our kids (or future kids) by showing care and love for parents. Thus, we are struck by the most challenging dilemma around 25-35yrs of age – ‘shall I return back to Manipur, but how?’returning_home_airport_01In search of opportunities to study in prestigious colleges/universities and work in jobs after our studies, we have left Manipur during our teenage period. By the age of 22-35yrs, we are working in a relevant professional career and residing at a developed city of India outside Manipur state or in a foreign country. Also, we are likely to been married by then and have already started a small family with own kids.

One popular option used by most non-resident Manipuris to return back to Manipur (irrespective of current profession or years of job experiences) is to try for Manipur Civil Services Combined Competitive (MCSCC) exam conducted by Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC). It’s not sure whether most MCSCC exam aspirants actually know what type of work or life style one has to live once selected in that exam and begin to serve in various administrative departments of the Manipur government. Also, it’s not sure what happens to those years of work experiences, technical skills acquired and professional education undertaken in the past by those non-resident Manipuris after becoming high ranking administrative officers. Maybe, MCSCC exam is the most targeted choice because of the status of MCS/MPS officials in society and the income earning possibilities within the state among available jobs.

Another popular option used by non-resident Manipuris (with an average academic, especially among boys) is to try for a job in Manipur Police services (such as Assistant Sub-Inspector, Sub-Inspector, Indian Reserve Battalion Sepoy, Commando Sepoy). Prior job experiences and graduation degree of individuals are also less relevant while applying to the services of Police. What most educated Manipuris living outside Manipur expect when shifting to Manipur is a reasonable salary from a job (or an income source) and maintaining a reasonable social status within Manipur. Also, most non-resident Manipuris love to aim for the job of a teacher in school or a lecturer in college in Manipur. Thus, many non-resident Manipuris depends on government provided jobs to return back to Manipur and many of us haven’t yet tried to explore about any other options to come back to Manipur.

Some of the reasons why most non-resident Manipuris could not realize their wish to return back to Manipur are – (1) non-availability of directly similar jobs in their professions in Manipur, (2) availability of few jobs in some relevant professions, but needing to bribe officials and ministers to get those jobs, (3) being too late in one’s age to shift to Manipur (because of having grownup kids who were already adjusted to the outside social environments, or inability to just leave the jobs as monthly salaries fulfilled family maintenance, or their parents had already died and no close relatives lived in Manipur now), (4) not earned enough money and not gained appropriate business acumen with risk-taking attitude to start businesses in Manipur.

Some of the possible opportunities in Manipur that non-resident Manipuris can try to shift back to Manipur are – (1) starting a business in tourism/hospitality sector (such as running a restaurant, hotel accommodation, travel transport services, cultural tour programs), (2) starting a locally relevant agro-business (such as rearing of pigs/chickens, egg production, milk production, cultivation of pineapple, sales of dried fruits, potato farming), (3) starting a trading business on off-the-shelf goods (such as electronic items, bedding-clothing items, woods and furniture), (4) starting an advertising and marketing agency (such as sales and promotion of local products, non-news related publication and design activities, general website design activities), (5) starting advisory services (such as educational consultants to admit students from Manipur to various colleges in other Indian states, income-tax/business setup services to local enterprises, export-import setup services to local entrepreneurs, investment in stocks and real estates located in other cities of India, funding grant application to various government and private bodies for projects of local enterprises). The other possibility is to try to expand the business one already owns in other cities of India or abroad to Manipur, or to try to expand new offices in Manipur for the company wherein one currently works at senior management position in other cities of India or abroad.

The key challenge to returning back to Manipur by most non-resident Manipuris is that they haven’t acquired relevant skills, life experiences and risk taking willpower to venture into the career opportunities feasible within Manipur. Also, they may not have enough cash to invest the required start-up fund and most importantly, they may not have known appropriate advisory contacts to support them during the transition phase from ‘where they are currently living’ to ‘within Manipur’. One must motivate self to learn transferable skills while at work in various jobs at other cities of India; such as (1) business acumen on how to deal with finances and resources, (2) people management below and above the current job position, (3) relationship building with peers and non-peers, (4) calculated risk taking and self-starting attitude, (5) networking with relevant professionals and individuals in the interested industry/social domain, (6) awareness on government policies and funding supports in interest areas, (7) self simulation of draft ideas by making occasional visits in Manipur and execution of prototype projects, (8) learning to work in teams to achieve personal project objectives, and yet led by self. Its worth to remind ourselves that – ‘Employees tend to remain lifelong as employees or salaried persons, while entrepreneurs of own businesses tend to aim big to grow as one wishes and leave behind the businesses/wealth-earnings to their family on retirement’. In most state/central government jobs within Manipur, one may find self being stuck for life apart from just waiting for the monthly salary. Also possibly, he/she may not like the work environment and job roles, but, there is no other alternative job to quit and thereby no other means of livelihood.

If a non-resident Manipuri wishes to return back to Manipur someday, one should start saving money from early stage of life and start planning how one can invest own time/money in Manipur. As an example: by building homes at our respective town/village in Manipur in a way that some rooms/floors can be let out to tourists for a short stay, we can even earn some income and also contribute to tourism growth to the local town/village. Thus, if we are ready to write MCSCC exam and become MCS/MPS officer after having done entirely different jobs for years in industry and completed highly technical academic studies in the past, why not we dare to dream even bigger like creating own business firms by using the intelligent brain, life experiences, and willpower we’ve got. Earlier the actual realistic planning on ‘how to return back to Manipur’, higher is the success rate of returning; otherwise the person is daydreaming and wasting own time/effort.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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Manipur State Govt has tried to build new infrastructure projects at many tourist spots and organize tourism festivals in the recent years for tourism promotion. Yet, common people seem still confused what exactly Manipur tourism is all about. So, basic queries arise – ‘Why tourism?’, ‘Do we really need it?’, ‘What’s the gain/loss?’, ‘Who are the real stakeholders?’, ‘What role by whom for how long?’, and ‘what’s tourism in business sense?’ Thus, looking again with a fresh mind about promoting tourism in Manipur and growth of businesses connected to tourism may be useful.

manipur-road-mapThe foremost essential focus that state govt ought to do in tourism promotion (even before investing in any infrastructure building projects) seems to be about ‘Building a good network of motorable roads connecting every village/town within Manipur’. Once motorable roads are built, intra-state and inter-state commutation will be easier; thereby allowing people themselves to participate in tourism related activities by default. Second focus ought to be ‘Sensitization of local public on how tourism works and who can play what role to get maximum benefits for public themselves’.

On social aspect, tourism is to do with movement of people i.e. temporary migration, while on business aspect, tourism is to do with visiting people buying goods/services from local people during their stay. In true sense, tourism is just all about people and state govt seems to miss this key ‘understanding’.

Most appropriate slogan on Manipur tourism seems to be ‘Govt provides Motorable Roads and People take care of Tourism’. Once a network of motorable roads connecting every village in Manipur state is in place, people will automatically take care of tourism related businesses. So, state govt’s main focus on tourism promotion ought to be ‘Motorable Roads’. The add-on priority of State govt on tourism promotion may instead focus on collecting statistics of tourist visitors (such as places visited, tourist traffic, reason of interest/visit, days/hours stayed, money spent per person, demographic survey of tourist inflow, and issues found during tourist visit, etc). This statistics info is crucial not just for tourism aspect but also for controlling social migration and illegal immigration issues. Some genuine support that state govt can do in Manipur for tourists are installation of readable signposts on travel roads, creation of tour-route guide maps, distributing illustrated pamphlets showing entertainments and activities that can be done while visiting a place, stationing tourist support centres at various locations with info, and opening a call centre support for tourist emergencies, etc.

Taking an example to understand potential stakeholders in Manipur tourism:

Visiting Manipur by air is the best choice of many (foreign/national) tourists. Imphal Airport thus becomes the first thing a tourist is likely to see. Hence tourist friendly environment needs to be created within airport (e.g. direction signboards, promotion messages, Do’s and Don’ts guides on social ethics, courtesy from airport staffs, take-away tourist fliers at easily accessible locations, foreign exchange store, shopping and gift stores, emergency doctors/clinic, etc). Just outside the airport exit, a tourist expects friendly travel operators who will not cheat and safely take him/her to nearby hospitable hotel or paying guest houses. In between airport exit and nearby hotel/accommodation location, a tourist may have expected roads on the route to be of motorable condition with proper signboard, and local people (including houses/buildings) of welcoming attitude.

At the hotel or paying guest house, a tourist may not get own foreign food/snacks, but will at least expect local food and cuisines being served in high hygienic conditions. Tourists will appreciate the hotel more, if extra tourist guide info is provided in addition to delivering excellent customer service. A tourist will expect customer friendly staffs, proper sanitary waste bins and toilet services, and other relevant entertainment services while visiting a tourist spot or an ecological garden. Business owners of that tourist spot (or garden/park) may do their best to enhance the customer experience, because inflow number of tourists impacts their business. But, we often seem to miss to acknowledge who is going to take care of providing hospitality to tourist in the route gap between a hotel and a tourist spot. That missing gap is what local people on the route ought to take in-charge of; thereby also giving job and benefit to themselves by providing add-on product/service for visiting tourists. New recreational spots and small shopping stores can be created on the route in between any tourist spots and nearby reputed star hotels within Manipur. Best effort has to be made to create many cycle-drive and foot-walk routes in most village/town (nearby popular tourist spots) so that tourist visitors can roam around and spend time/money in the process while interacting with local businesses and people on those routes. This approach will bring about inclusive growth within Manipur by allowing small businesses and local people to earn by serving tourist visitors in addition to earning by those large businesses and star hotels.

During popular festivals at a particular location conducted on specific dates in a year, students of local schools/colleges can be availed to support visiting tourists voluntarily or under paid service. Proper coordination for festival support to tourists can be made between festival organizers and management of educational institutions. This approach will also enables students to experience management skills and help own personality development. These educated students can support visiting tourists in English or other foreign languages as tour guides. Pamphlets showcasing attractions on a particular Leikai/Zone may be created by local clubs (or tour operators) for the benefits of businesses and people in that Leikai/Zone. Local ‘Leikai Mandap’ and community halls can be redecorated occasionally for exhibitions and tourist events; thereby allowing ‘Leikai clubs’ to participate in maintaining Leikai roads/streets and also welcoming visiting tourists altogether during the big festival. Also, individual houses and properties (if interested) can be allowed to adapt for businesses providing some benefits to visiting tourists. Rickshaws and horse-carts can be reused rather in a fashionable way for shorter travel within village/town routes by tourists.

State govt has to start delegating more (i.e. give work/opportunity with responsibility and accountability) to non-govt entities and local businesses on tourism related activities within Manipur. Necessary support for finance and resources (on demand) should be made available to social and private bodies working in the area of tourism and hospitality services. State govt (or delegated authorizes) may also act as auditors or benchmarking bodies to check quality specification and conformance by tour operators and businesses in tourism sector – such as hygiene level, business operations under valid licenses, maintenance of registry for foreign nationals and outside-state visitors at hotels, customer support ethics, extra care support for disable visitors, upholding diversity in work-force, maintaining dignity for children and women, etc.

State govt should provide an integrated tourism framework (i.e. a basic diagram) that explains in a simplified manner how various stakeholders are interacting to each other on day-to-day basis within Manipur state. This approach will allow local people, business owners, tour operators, and govt officials to work alongside towards tourism promotion and tourism related business growth. Rather than conducting only one big festival at Imphal municipal area per year by state govt (incurring heavy cost in crores rupee), many smaller festivals and events throughout seasons in a year ought to been conducted by local people and businesses (with support from state govt) in their respective locations within Manipur state. State govt also need to keep in check about the side-effects (i.e. implications) of tourism related activities in Manipur due to inflow of large volume of tourist visitors – such as air population due to excessive exhaust from motor vehicles, noise population due to festivals, resource scarcity due to over-consumption, road traffic chaos due to extra tourist vehicles, cultural and social influence from tourists, etc. Accordingly, new policies and support services need to be established to tackle tourism induced problems by state govt, and people should be sensitized on these topics periodically.

Thus, involving local people into tourism planning and making local people to take ownership of tourism related activities across villages/towns of Manipur is one of the best ways toward achieving the comment of ‘Nice People, Nice Place’ from tourist visitors. Giving ‘an amazing experience’ from the moment a tourist lands in Manipur and letting to return back home after spending few memorable moments in Manipur should be our focus on how tourism promotion activities and growth related projects ought to be.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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