World Tourism Day is observed each year on 27 September to foster the significance of tourism and its social, cultural, political, and economic values. It is high time to re-think tourism that is socially and culturally sustainable. Tourism is a win-win social interaction principle, of course, with a flipside. While possible economic progression is a motivating factor, we must seriously consider tourism’s socio-cultural implications. Northeast India has many motivating features for tourism, but the infrastructure is poor compared to other well-established tourist places. While Northeast India remains an unexplored part of India, it is the corridor to Southeast Asia. This article postulates the possibilities of socio-cultural promotion and dilution.
Possibilities in tourism
The eight Northeastern states of India are pitched on the great Himalayas’ ranges, harbouring biodiversity. These mountainous states of India are beautiful places with challenges as well. The diverse cultural uniqueness could contribute to the diversity of the world. With tourism rising to a world standard, financial investments and resource sharing could occur. Employment of host communities could increase without leaving their homes. Increased per capita income could offer better educational facilities to the younger generation. There is a possibility to minimise the income gaps of people. Another possibility is the chance to learn foreign languages to serve as tourist guides. Learning a foreign language can go a long way to secure bread and butter for one’s family while adding attraction to tourists who could have things explained in their native language while in a foreign land. Intercultural marriages are also a huge possibility that can raise the genome of people, economically uplift and culturally broaden our outlook. Local handicrafts and specialities could find a global audience. Indigenously produced drinks could have inroads to imported drinks. Indigenous shawls and ornaments could attract a global audience.
Apprehensions in tourism
Will tourism in the Northeast promote the socio-cultural mosaic, some of which are almost extinct? Or will the tourist influx dilute the already vulnerable socio-cultural remnants? Drug tourism and flesh trade in Northeast India is possible as it shares a significant porous international boundary with neighbouring countries. In the pretext of tourism, there could be more availability of logistics for national and international terrorism. There is also a high chance of aping the western socio-cultural life and forgetting the indigenous cultural roots and practices. Northeast people are very adaptable to affluent lifestyles, so there is a high possibility of imitating the socio-cultural lifestyle of tourists in our society. More prominent communities throttling smaller communities for the lion’s share of tourism income is a threat. Interval disagreements and ethnic clashes are tourism’s ‘No, No’. No tourist will like to lay down their lives in Northeast India. Overtourism and overcrowding can affect services and lead to harmful environmental conditions. Pollution with plastics, waste food materials, and non-degradable substances are alarming fears that need proper regulation. Hydro and land bodies stand the chance of contamination beyond redemption. These are some unwanted concomitants from what appear to be mere tourist undertakings.
Too many rules and regulations will discourage tourists, but improper safety regulations could also jeopardise the whole gamut of the tourism sector. Aloof from both extremes, the middle path may be the wisest part. Tourism is a boon, a bane, a powerhouse, and a possible nuke. Understanding the apprehensions of tourism can prepare us to plan and manage tourism well. This planning needs the Government, stakeholders, and host communities to re-think tourism with the present needs and expectations of tourists. If the socio-cultural tenets of Northeast India are diluted and compromised, tourism could be a distraction than a direction.
The author is a PhD research scholar, Department of Sociology and Social Work, CHRIST (Deemed to be University), Bangalore, Karnataka, India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org