Being a landlocked region, for Manipur and most parts of North East India, connectivity has always been a pain point for years. That is why the region has lauded the Modi government’s Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) which can change its tourism story. In an exclusive interview with Express TravelWorld, N Ashok Kumar, secretary (tourism), Government of Manipur stated, “Being a far-flung state, we rely mostly on air travel. Imphal is well connected by air with the major cities of India. The introduction of short haul flights and affordable flying under the RCS will help connect Imphal with the other smaller cities in the country which will definitely increase the tourist footfall in the state.” He added, “What Manipur needs right now is a robust and concrete infrastructure not only on interstate connectivity but also intrastate infrastructure to connect the various districts and villages within the state. Once we set these basic infrastructures in position, tourism will grow exponentially in the state. We also need a focused approach from the Centre to help us in initiating mega promotion campaigns to promote the state.”
Elaborating on the new tourism projects that will be rolled out this year, he said, “Manipur Tourism has initiated various infrastructure development schemes to promote tourism in the state. Some of the major projects to look out for will be the development of the Spiritual Circuit in Manipur – Shree Shree Govindajee Temple-Shree Bijoy Govindajee Temple-Shree Gopinath Temple-Shree Bungshibodhon Temple and the development of Integrated Tourist Circuits connecting the districts in Manipur. At this point, we are more focused on ramping up our promotions for the existing tourist destinations in the state. We do have plans to identify, develop, and promote new destinations. However, our priority for now is to boost the existing destinations before we venture into new areas.”
The Asian Development Bank has identified Manipur as a ‘Key Area’ due to its unrealised potential as an ecotourism product. Manipur Tourism is committed to promoting ecotourism in the state. The Government of Manipur has taken up the ‘Integrated Tourist Destination of Ecotourism Complex’ project at Mata Mualtam Hyde Out Park in the Churachandpur district of Manipur with funding from the ministry of tourism, Government of India in 2013-2014.
Commenting on the tourism department’s strategy to protect the Loktak Lake (the only floating national park in the world) and to balance tourism development projects with ecotourism goals, Kumar said, “Loktak Lake is a principal attraction for any traveller visiting Manipur. The lake plays a crucial part in boosting the tourism potential of the state. It is also at a juncture where the ecological balance of the lake is being destroyed. It is our priority to preserve the lake. A lot of awareness campaigns are being conducted to educate the people on the importance of the lake, its present situation, and how we need to conserve it. Several projects to clean up the lake are being taken up with the help of the locals and the Loktak Development Authority. Ecotourism is one of our focus areas and we are working on finding ways to develop it further without hurting the ecosystem of the lake.”
The concept of homestay is relatively new in Manipur and has been slowly gaining momentum. Manipur Tourism is currently promoting homestays at private properties in the state. “We are also working closely with interested parties to identify suitable places to set up homestays in and around Imphal and the major hill districts of Manipur,” informed Kumar.