Tourism being a global industry with its costumers on the exponential increase since 2010, each country has targeted this sector for gaining economic mileage. In the context India with its varied physiography, cultural heritage, historical and ancient monuments has been emerging as international tourist hotspot. The national government has also focused on the sector since the beginning of the 21st century with the formulation of National Tourism Policy (NTP) in 2002. Manipur too followed the national path and tourism can now be viewed as an industrial investment sector. However the enigma still hovers in bringing the tourism sector of the state to global arena and henceforth new perspective needs to be sort out. In the context the whole spectrum of Niche tourism (Agritourism, Birth tourism, Culinary tourism, Cultural tourism, Dark tourism, Eco tourism, Extreme tourism, Geotourism, Heritage tourism, Medical tourism, Movie tourism, Nautical tourism, Pop-culture tourism, Religious tourism, Slum tourism, Sports tourism, Textile tourism, Virtual tourism, War tourism, Wellness tourism, Wildlife tourism) though is not suitable in our societal and cultural set up, few of them will be need of the hour.
Amongst these GEOTOURISM can be brought to public domain for assessing the economic potential. Geotourism is one of the newest concepts within the field of tourism, and primarily focuses on promoting geological and geomorphological features in landscapes as tourist attractions. This new niche market segment within tourism is based on the conservation of geoheritage and geodiversity through appropriate sustainability measures and management. It begins with an understanding of the abiotic (non-living) environment, to build greater awareness of the biotic (living) environment of plants and animals as well as the Cultural environment of people, past and present. It is argued that geotourism offers a new form of sustainable tourism which is more holistic than previous niche forms of tourism.
Since the reincarnation of Manipur Tourism Festival as the Sangai Festival in 2010, if enquired about tourism to all, the Manipuri Diaspora and general people limit their perception to Sangai Festival, Sendra-Loktak Lake, KLNP, Moreh, Pineapple Festival, INA, Dzuko Valley, Kangla Fort, etc.... etc. The so called system of tourism in Sangai Festival in our state attracts mostly the local enthusiasts that too almost entirely the youths who are dependent to their parents. It’s is evident from the fact that the influx of outside tourists (both national and international) during the Sangai Festivals is very meagre. It’s contradictory to the NTP: 2002 and Manipur Tourism Policy (MTP), 2014 and the big enigma of harnessing economy from tourism still looms doom. Here lies to cater few changes in the mindset of policy makers, stake holders that should proportionately raised the influx of outside tourist in Manipur.
One basic principle of the NTP: 2002 focuses on the emergence of a new young class of tourists; loving for adventure, distant destination in hills, caves and forests. These tourists don’t need 5 star accommodation, luxurious transport but only simple, neat and clean place to stay and down to earth hosts and guides. This can be fulfilled with Guest Tourism. Such youths are now looking towards the north-eastern states. To cite the best examples, trek to Dzuko Valley, Shirui Hills are more fascinating than those of Kangla, Loktak Lake and the tourists even consider a lifetime achievement for these treks. The income to expenditure ratio in such sites are very high as only a good guide, comfortable and cosy guest houses——even guest huts will suffice. In the present scenario, people prefer to stay in tents. Singcha, Khayang, Phangrei, Kwatha, Phungyar, Tharon, Narum, Chattrik, Kwatha other than the known Dzuko valley and Shirui peak are potential guest tourism destinations in the border region of Manipur.
Even then Guest Tourism might attract a few people only. However if we elevate these places to GEOTOURISM spots, a new dimensional scope of treasure hunt/ natural resource assessment will come up. Linking these places with geology, the state has been endowed with very rare geological phenomena viz. occurrences of OPHIOLITES, PLATE TECTONIC boundary, etc. The state govt. and concern department can put proposal for scientific study in such areas of geologically significant features. The 36th International Geological Congress will be hosted by India in 2020 and the global community of geoscientists are on the discovery mode. It is right time to highlight these spots as GEOTOURISM spots which is synchronous with foreign funding for natural mineral resource assessment of the state as well. A testament to the rapid growth of geotourism worldwide is the expansion of membership of the UNESCO Global Geoparks Network, from 20 Geoparks when it was founded in 2004 to 147 till April, 2019. Concurrent with the growth of geotourism, there has been an explosion in the number of scientific publications on issues related to the subject over the past few years. To date, the major focus of these publications has been on geotourism as an economic driver with respect to rural development.
Geotourism is, however, a broad concept which encompasses many aspects of a range of tourism activities, such as transport, accommodation, destination amenities, recreation, planning, and management. Considering the inability of the state to build up world class infrastructure in tourism sector, the grooming of the agile scientific human resource would be multi-faceted approach once the GEOTOURISM is on the upfront. One may look for tourism as income generation in the present context, who knows it may be a game changer turning Manipur into global natural resource market for gold, precious stones, Rare Earth Elements (REEs) and base metals, Chromium, Nickel and Platinum in the decades to come. Hence let’s not hesitate to promote GEOTOURISM in Manipur.