Job is one of the most important things in our life. If we think and act something differently we can create a lot of job from tourism like in Thailand. The mantra is simple-Serve tourists and make money! This is what Thais do, so why not possible in Manipur? Tourism creates lots of jobs and huge income in Thailand. Lately people seem a bit aware of it in Manipur too. Government started organizing Sangai tourism festival every year. Good idea, but it is not enough for prime time and income generation in the state. How many tourists are attracted by the festival? Truly speaking it is failed. Why?
There are many reasons of failure in tourism sector in Manipur. There is lack of long term policy. There is short vision planning regarding to any construction. The festival might spend lots of money for temporary set up, pavilions and it will be gone when the festival is over. Why don’t we build those pavilions and constructions to stand permanently? And we can use them the following years as we wish if we construct them at suitable locations around the state. That will be our standing and long lasting property.
We need to change our thinking and attitude so that we can create jobs and make money just like in Thailand. We (writers of this article) have been living in Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, and Laos for the past 15 years and we see reasons why people are so much in love traveling in these countries. Thailand attracts lots of tourists every year -international and local tourists. Travelers enjoy so much in Thailand regarding to foods, drinks, safety, easily accessible services, warm welcome, friendly people, nicely talk, free movement without any threat or fear from local people whosoever. In 2012, any tourist who came to Thailand contributed to Thai economy by spending roughly about Rs 10,000 per day per tourist. And their average length of stay in Thailand was around 10 days. So, by simple math calculation it shows that average expenditure for each tourist is roughly Rs100,000 (1lakh) per head. There are millions who contributed such big money in a short time. Local people are aware of it and they see tourists as their income, and they care outsiders. So local people as well as government authority come forward together, they take care tourists very well and they know tourists are their income provider. They do not intimidate outsiders. They speak softly and nicely. They know exactly what they are doing. Thais are very smart. Serve people, make money. That’s it. Easy! We can achieve this to some extend if our government and local people come forward together. Today, there are more tourists than the year 2012 and more money is spent per head. They build resorts in cities, in towns, and in far villages. They convert rivers, ponds, and lakes as floating market which is famous and very typical Thai style. They make artificial water body, they manage it as floating market by setting up shops, food court, boating facility, selling local produce/products. It is recreational centre. Cleanliness and hygiene is one of their keys to success. This is how they do business. Different jobs are created from tourism sector. We need lessons from them, we need to send planners, observation team to see how it works, how they manage it. Jobs created from tourism sectors are related to hotel, restaurant, cook, street food vendor, transportation-taxi, bus service, tour guide, market/shopping, selling local products, money exchange service, courier service, museum, entertainment and cultural exhibition etc. Exposure to outsiders is the beginning to open the door of business and demand for local produce and products will be increased. Here are some of the reasons we fail in our tourism sector.
1. Feeling of Safety. Safety is no.1 concerned for failing tourism in Manipur. There is bomb blast, shooting, killing almost as daily basis. Who will take risk for their lives in this situation as holiday maker? Without providing proper safety, no one will come. Tourists like to enjoy and have fun during their short stay. We need to stop act of violence in order to generate income. Are we freely driving from one place to another, day and night? No. We are too much fractional in structures in the society, and too much fractional in thinking. We are also too much communal. Crossing your village boundary, you cannot enjoy the freedom without fear. This problem is zero in Thailand. Thai People mind their business, and they know their business well. We also need it.
2. Security. Police personnel, private security, and guides are doing their best to protect and to promote tourism in Thailand. We need this in Manipur too. There is less public confidence on this context in our Manipuri society. We need to change the behavior of security personnel. Even carrying some money in the pocket is life threatening in Manipur. We need friendly, approachable security personnel that people can contact them any time without fear. Authorities need more work to train their workforce, more work to convince people, give sense of safety to people to attract tourists.
3. Road and Transportation. We have really very poor infra-structure of roads and transportation. Our national highway cannot catch up the standard of Thailand’s local road or farm road. Please put money on road construction, and we would like to request the contractors to take less in their pocket. It is open secret. It is time to stop game of percentage reservation for every construction. Tourists will not enjoy on our muddy and dirty roads. We need excellent road and transportation for happy tourism.
4. Toilet. Foreigners commented India as a big toilet. Don’t be upset with our words. It is personal experience. Let us accept the truth. Let us stop our open toilet and urinary system. We do not have proper and enough toilet. As a student in Delhi, I still remember the experience that I left my new socks in toilet to clean up myself after toilet. As a local resident myself, it is nightmare to think where we can find toilet if we go out. Public toilet and sanitation is almost zero. It is extremely difficult for outsiders to find toilet anywhere in Manipur. We need something to do about it. Again if there is toilet, there is no water. Provide the very basic things. Let us copy good somethings from Thailand and let us learn how they manage public sanitation.
5. Cleanliness. Our hygiene and cleanliness is zero level. we are sure some people would not like our comment, and might protest against our language. But it is true that our Imphal city is not better than garbage dump of other countries. Here is Thailand, a big river called Chao Phraya is passing through Bangkok city. The water is very clean. No one throws dirty inside the river. We cannot manage our Nambul river. Water in Nambul river is literally no water. As holiday makers, people will not come to smell this stink, smell of garbage scattering everywhere. Municipality authorities need something to do about it. In Thailand people are not allowed to throw plastic, paper, or whatever on the street. If caught, you will be fined. Let us do the same thing. Let us stop spitting of chewing petal-nut on the floor, on the wall, on the street. Beauty will attract tourists. Tourism will bring income for the state, and for the local people.
6. Foods and Drinks. People come and enjoy for a few days as tourists. During their stay make them happy, make them free to eat and drink. Let them spend money on the food they like, have them enjoy the drinks they like. Thailand encourages local food, local brewing and drinks. They make money. Government collect tax, and the money goes to public construction work. we personally feel that our local brewing, and local whiskey can bring lots of income to government as it does in France, Japan, and Thailand or any other parts of the world. Civil society also need to re-think about it. Goa government generates huge income from local drinks in India. Let tourists taste it and have them come back again. That is our income.
7. Stop Bandh and Strikes. Bandh, strike, non violence movements are typical characteristic of any Indian states. We are part of it. Non violence however it harms too much to our economy. Any civil society, any organization will come up, declares general strike, economic blockade any time, anywhere they want. Then people talk about our land, rich and beautiful. But if travel far and wide, we will see we are surrounded by different kinds of insufficiency. Bandhs and blockades bring too much harm to our economy. Have we thought how much it hurts to our economy? Nobody cares about it. People do what they like. There were colour fractional politics in Thailand in the past few years but no one disturbed tourists. They minded their business, they never crossed protest site to hurt civilians’ business. They tried to minimize the damage in economy and tourism, but nobody cares how much it hurts, how much it damages by bandh and strike in Manipur. People need to change thinking. In developed countries people work and they are paid based on number of hours. We work and we are paid our salary as yearly system, not monthly. Nobody cares wasting an hour or a day. We do need working hourly system to make work efficient.
8. Change Market Focus. We need to change our market focus. If we can produce what people may like, we can sell it in big volume in and outside. There are many local dress makers. Just to highlight an example, as a traditional dress, how many phanek (Manipuri women’s dress) can we sell or export to generate state income? we are sure we cannot export even a single piece to Thailand or Singapore or anywhere. But, how many T-shirts do we import from Thailand? Millions. They make what people might like inside as well as outside Thailand. We also can sell and export millions of T-shirts if make it, because there is more people out there who wear T-shirts. We need to change our target market as well. we are not trying to discourage our tradition and traditional dress or costume. It is true and we cannot deny the fact. We need to change our perception and thinking. Business and money speaks a lot in modern world. It is time to wake up. We cannot survive by our self praising literature-Sana Leipak, Mani-Mukda, Golden Land so on and so forth. Let us open our eyes together.
3. Khwairakpam Sunita