No tourism policy


Almost all the governments have been declaring from various pulpits that tourism is one sector that can transform our economy. Unfortunately, so far there appears to be neither an approved “policy of tourism” nor a long term master plan for its development and promotion. Most of the projects and schemes are taken up on ad hoc basis. Merely a place being very attractive or its people being hospitable do not necessarily make it a good tourism destination. For any tourism development of an area there are three basic criteria – potential, accessibility and infrastructure. The government has constructed tourist amenities/infrastructure in different parts of the state, mostly on local demand or to satisfy certain constituencies. People have been given a feeling that tourism is a magic wand and if it comes to their area, they will get prosperity. In fact, it is observed that we are creating tourist infrastructures where it is not needed. Creation of tourist infrastructures in place where tourist inflow is little to none is counterproductive. It would have been better to select only two to three areas easily approachable and having basic infrastructure instead of randomly selecting areas covering almost all districts of the state if it is to be viable. In view of the fact that tourists inflow into the state is low and mostly during December, the new areas developed will mostly remain unutilised. While the department is developing new areas, they should also not forget the present destinations which are getting over developed and congested. There is urgent need to inspect all the existing tourist destinations and ensure that these do not become virtual slums because of overdevelopment. Especially, there is need to take care of environment which in many existing resorts is getting totally polluted due to garbage thrown everywhere including forest/valley areas which are primary the main source of attraction. Here must be understood that to take care of various aspects of tourism one needs a professional tourism organization/department. All over the world the official tourism organisations have specialists in various fields to take care of different aspects. One needs planners, environmental specialists, marketing professionals and legal experts and so on to take care of different areas both for development, marketing and regulation of the trade. The government itself has only to develop the basic infrastructure and leave the super structure to private enterprise that need to be continuously monitored and regulated. Unfortunately, the State Tourism Department has always been treated as any other department and people posted there have no specialisation but are basically administrators either from the State administrative service or the All India Administrative Service. There is no harm in having the chief executive or the Head of the Department from the administrative service but he needs to have specialists and professionals related to different fields to assist him. Unfortunately, the present set up has only administration related officers and staff at all levels. Indeed there is an urgent need for the government to revamp the entire tourism organisation and get officers who are specialists in different fields especially, tourism planning, adventure tourism (which is presently one of the most sought after avenue in the state), marketing and regulation of trade and so on. The problem with only having persons from administrative background is that these people usually have fixed tenure and as a matter of policy have to be circulated in different departments. In view of various aspects it is imperative that the government takes an overall view of not only proper planning and the development but also of the tourism department so that the activity becomes not only profitable but also environment friendly. Government must aim for sustainable tourism with emphasis on adventure tourism which has unlimited scope in different parts of the state. Mere lip service of calling tourism as an important sector for our economy will not do. It has to be practically shown on the ground by giving highest priority to activities related to development and promotion of tourism including the tourism department responsible for handling these activities.