It has been a conventional recommendation that tourism is one of the potential tools for promoting economic development through extensive operation of Tourism Multiplier. Apparently the whole exercise looks simple and easy. It requires low fixed capital and minimum variable capital. It is largely labour-intensive. It does not demand high technical knowledge and advanced management skill. The gestation period is fairly less. We act on the given hardware and software of natural gifts–capitalising the capital. To-day Manipur is experiencing a new trend of rural tourism in remote weakening villages with all disabilities of dilapidated environment.
But a closer look tells us of the uneasy experience. Tourism is not isolated activity and it depends upon efficacies of physical infrastructures such as roads, transport, water supply, electricity and sewerage etc. The inputs are heterogeneous unlike a factory operating under the same roof of command and control. It is carried out by private individuals whose operational autonomy is hardly questioned. Government cannot run tourism; Government can at best be facilitator. It is seasonal and subject to subjective factors such as taste, culture and fashion. The satisfaction so provided is function of interplay of human factors of which hospitality, the established manner of decency and discipline, is the crux. It is, by and large, intangible. It is therefore said to be most fragmented industry. A slight mishap at a point may derail the contribution of the attempt. Besides, the social capital and entrepreneurship has to act as catalyst.
Generally the tourism plan seeks to ensure ‘3A’s; A1= Accommodation, A2= Accessibility and A3= Attractions. It is not easy to prepare a pragmatic plan of action without policy-consensus and co-ordination. Herein lies the Institutional Responsibility of Government as facilitator. Availability of opportunity is one but utilisation of opportunity is entirely a different thing.
Tourism Multiplier which speaks of the relationship between tourism and State economy depends upon the pattern of expenditure incurred by the tourist. The more they spend the higher acceleration and multiplier. It is necessary to calculate the percentage of expenditure on different areas of goods and services. Normally tourists spend 30% of expenditure on accommodation, 25% on food and drinks, 25% on purchase, 10% on recreation entertainment, 5% on internal transport and 5% on sundries (Peter Michael, London, 1969).
Of course, the expenditure pattern may change from State to State. If the host State produces excellent goods and services of their own, Multiplier Effect on the local economy is high.
Well, Sangai Festival is over after a short spell of heats and bubbles. The Festival is unique in the sense of being different from the rest of the country. Now, what is basic contribution to the Gross State Domestic Product ? How to capitalise the momentum so generated ? In what ways Sangai Festival could be a perennial component of Long Term Industrial Policy of Manipur ? What about follow-up to sustain ?
Let us look at Himachal Pradesh. The hill State is endowed with basic tourism resources such as cultural diversity, clean and peaceful environment, beautiful streams, sacred shrines, historic monuments and hospitable people. Public utility services are excellent including clean toilets at bus stands, restaurants and petrol pumps. Besides there are 2,604 hotels having about 70869 of bed facility, 787 home-stay units.
It is not a surprise that tourism contributes 7% to State Domestic Product of Himachal Pradesh. The sector is given high priority with all incentives. The greatest strength is fair and proper documentation. Functional Audit is welcome as feedback. Visitors come as strangers and they go back as friends.
Wrong information leads to inability to work correctly. Advanced States and countries do not compromise proper documentation of actual performance on the ground. This is vital necessity.
The first query is about classified data of tourists who visited Manipur for this purpose. What did they “see” ? What did they “feel” about them ? What are new attractions of exceptional appeal “admired” by them ? Any pragmatic approach to tourism should be governed by three articles such as “see, feel and admire”. Based upon the classified data and documents we can prepare the roadmap for a sound foundation for surging tourism in Manipur. Intangible perspective is the seed and soul for tourism industry.
In the meantime we can undertake functional audit by applying SWOT theory. (S=Strength, W=Weakness, O=Opportunity and T=Threat). We have to prepare 3 year plan, 7 year plan and 15 year plan based on the critical findings.
The important contribution of tourism sector in Manipur needs no reiteration. Culturally rich Manipur is economically very poor. The Per Capita Income of Manipur is only Rs 75, 226 as against Rs. 4,30,081 of Goa and Rs. 3,80,926 of Sikkim. Even Tripura goes ahead of Manipur with Rs. 1,12,849 in 2018-19 (GOI, Economic Survey, 2020-21, Vol. 2)
Secondly, the Net State Domestic Product at current prices (2018-19) is visibly poor with only Rs. 25,322 crore as against Rs. 1,33,303 crore of Himachal Pradesh and Rs. 66,000 crore of Goa. Ahead of Manipur the NSDP of Tripura is Rs. 44,835 crore.
Now there is need for a Functional Audit so that we can prepare a new policy with a new Institutional Parenting. Otherwise the Sangai bubbles may disappear and vanish gradually.
A time has definitely come for us to calculate the sectoral contribution of Sangai Festival vis-a-vis Tourism Policy of the State, to the Net State Domestic Product. Remember we are in the age which respects achievements more than mere performance.
There is a need for looking at Sangai extravaganza beyond traditional frontiers of routine exercise. We have to study the economic perspective, social perspective and political perspective. In a State like Manipur where the performance of manufacturing sector is visibly poor, development priority should be trade and tourism. How far the Sangai Festival could be a foundation for a surging Manipur with a difference ? It requires a long term meticulous planning.
The writer is Chairman of Institute of Development Studies, Manipur