On tourism policy

From single to multi-branding

Nagaland’s potential as a tourist destination is immense. The State Tourism Department calls it “a land of charm, diverse in landscape, culture and offers opportunities for the whole range of tourism activities.” Unfortunately, these resources remain largely untapped and underdeveloped, which the department aspires to change.

 

To this end, the department has put up a ‘Draft Tourism Policy’ on its website inviting public comments and feedback, which will be incorporated in the final document. This is a positive step and all stakeholders should make efforts to give feedback. In a nutshell, the department, formed in 1981 and bifurcated from the Department of Information and Public Relation, want to propel itself from a steady growth to a ‘fast and competitive growth.’

 

As per its own estimate, tourists’ statistics in Nagaland has ranged from 52,000-65,000 per year for domestic, while foreign tourists have ranged from 2000-5000 approximately.

 

The policy calls for evolving a framework – which is government-led, private- sector driven and community-welfare oriented. It further calls for effective linkages and close coordination of all stakeholders in the process of its implementation.

 

In the recent past, Nagaland has gained some recognition in the tourism sector. For instance, it was honoured with two Outlook Traveller (OLT) Awards in the last two years. Incidentally, the 2017 edition of the Hornbill Festival saw the highest turnout yet at 2, 43, 214 visitors with marked improvement in domestic and foreign tourist arrival.

 

However, this is where the problem starts – of being associated as a one-event destination. Nearly all the arrival from outside is solely concentrated on the Hornbill Festival. For instance, the record 2401 foreign tourist in last year edition of the festival account for almost all the tourist arrival quoted by the department in the draft policy.

 

It is not surprising. Till recently, the events highlighted on its website was mostly about the festival. While other problems persist, this is an issue needing utmost attention.

 

Effective marketing of the tourism products of an area is essential in order to inform prospective tourists “what the area has to offer, as well as to persuade them to visit it,” the policy stated. Despite award, et al, marketing its brand has not been a forte of the department.

 

For instance, a survey done by Hotelivate, in collaboration with World Travel and Tourism Council – India Initiative (WTTC- II) for 2017 shows the overall arrival of tourists in Nagaland was lowest among the 30 states and Union Territories (UTs) it covered. In category wise point allocation for ‘Effectiveness of Marketing Campaign,’ Nagaland was ranked 25 – 29th position in social media outreach while its website was ranked 28, 29 and 29 in 2013, 2015 and 2017 respectively.

 

A journey to the tourism website is a navigational nightmare, starting from the website, which sometimes linked to a marketing portal. The department Facebook handle has been active last couple of months; it needs to be augmented with constant innovation.

 

While the draft policy mentioned “Sustainability” as the dictum for any development and management of tourism, it should be augmented with responsible tourism. It necessitates promoting “Brand Nagaland’ as a ‘tourist home’ – but also a unique and ideal destination for immersive, responsible and sustainable tourism.

 

On the amenities side or lack of it, a journey from Dimapur to Kohima is an eye opener requiring urgent intervention. The tourist facilitating centre should also be established at Railways Station and other important points, not only at the airport.

 

Most importantly, any policy needs to be community-centric, to enable the citizens to participate effectively and productively in the global economy.