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Capitalise war anniversaries for Tourism
Subir Bhaumik former BBC Correspondent
Capitalise war anniversaries for Tourism
PHOTO : Tourists boating at panoramic Dumbur Lake, Tripura.TIWN Pic

In my previous column , I have pitched strongly for IT industry in Tripura . That because our state is going to emerge as India's third Internet gateway. There is no doubt that IT has the capacity to generate much employment and boost the economy of Tripura. But IT is a highly specialised industry and would only employ technically qualified people. There are many of those in Tripura and they would be happy getting a job in Agartala that pays them as much as they woiuld make in Bangalore or Hyderabad.

But there is only one industry which can create jobs for all and sundry -- from rickshawpullers to car drivers to tourist guides to hotel managers , the whole range of specialised to non-specialised jobs. 

Tripura has not explored the potential of tourism -- like Bengal did not for the long years of Left rule. Tourism has never been considered a key portfolio in the state cabinets . In tourism, the key factor is how one positions the state in order of preference of potential tourists.

Tripura not only has the potential of being a quick getaway by air for tourists from mainland states -- people who dont have much time but want to desperately take a break . Tripura's size and the distance between its established tourist attractions would make possible a good 3-4 day away package for anybody availing cheap flights from the mainland. 

Countries like Thailand survive on tourism. I will not suggest the Thai model for my state for obvious reasons because I dont want my state to be the brothel of Northeast India. But I will strongly  stress the importance of the industry and the potential which has been neglected by a sleepy political bureaucracy. The state government , long used to survive on its ability to garner central funds and create safe government jobs , have not given any thought to this industry. 

 In 2013, according to an economic impact research, Travel & Tourism’s direct contribution to world GDP was US$2.1 trillion (2.9%). This impact is larger than some of the largest manufacturing sectors – more than double the automotive manufacturing and nearly 40% larger than the global chemicals industry. Travel & Tourism is three-quarters the size of the global education, banking, communications and mining sectors. 

At US$ 6.8trillion in 2013, Travel & Tourism’s total contribution to GDP (ie taking direct, indirect and induced impacts into account) is 9.3% of global GDP. This compares to the 8.7% contribution of both the chemicals manufacturing and mining industries, 8% contribution of automotive manufacturing and mining, and the 19.3% contribution of the global financial services sector.

Taking the indirect and induced employment into account, Travel & Tourism sustained 266 million jobs in 2013, 1 in 11 of all jobs in the world. This exceeds the jobs impact of automotive manufacturing, chemicals manufacturing, banking mining and higher education. While nearly on a par with the numbers of people employed in education, Travel & Tourism employs slightly less that communications and financial services. Travel & Tourism directly sustains more jobs than the automotive and chemicals manufacturing industries combined across every region of the world. For every dollar invested, tourism creates more jobs than IT or manufacturing. 

So tourism should be a key segment in Tripura's growth alongside IT and manufacturing . But the government seems blissfully oblivious. 

Tripura has a tourism department and it runs counters in Agartala and Calcutta airports which are not even properly attended all the time. But we have not seen any sustained concerted effort by this department to target any of the potential tourism markets -- be it the domestic Bengal market or the one in Bangladesh where there is much interest in Tripura's role during the 1971 Liberation War.

Agartala looks  a clean city, it has a good museum in the Ujjyanta Palace, the Neer Mahal and Sepaijhala are good sites if properly maintained and surely the Dumbur lake is a great site for a stressed tourist who loves nature. Not to forget Matarbari and its religious appeal.  All within a radius of a few hundred kilometres that can be covered in a short duration package. Only if one is looking to visit the orange producing Jampui hills and the great Unakoti rock cuts would some more time be needed.

During 2008, I shepherded a BBC filming team shooting for a programme called 'Tropic of Cancer'   across Tripura in 3 days covering most of these sites before we entered Mizoram.

2016 would the 45th anniversary of the Bangladesh Liberation War. That is when the state government should organise a great festival to attract tourists to the sites where big Mukti Fauj camps existed in 1971. Thousands of Bangladeshis who fought in 1971 would love coming to the state to catch a glimpse. Tripura's distance from all major metros of Bangladesh would make for cheap travel.

(Mr. Subir Bhaumik is a veteran journalist, former BBC correspondant and author of  two well acclaimed books ‘Insurgent Crossfire’ and ‘Troubled Periphery’ )
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