SHIMLA: SEZs, software corridors and now ‘areas with tourist potential’ – these are soon to be realities on the Himachali horizon. Though the government has been following the general trend of earmarking areas of special economic interests, the latter is an improvised version which is of specific interest to the state because tourism is one thing where we don’t have to start from scratch.
Indeed, it is a novel idea to develop related tourism activities at a particular place identified for the purpose. On the one hand, it will help in chanalising resources that can be utilized for promoting tourism, and on the other hand it will allow the government to keep a tab on all such activities, which is important as a regulatory function. The idea should be to identify activities and co-relate them in an organised manner in a way that a self-regulatory mechanism is set in place.
Of course, there are numerous unchartered territories throughout the state that need to be explored, but there is a rider. The situation is no less than a gold rush for Himachalis to try their luck, the deciding factor being entrepreneurial spirit. No wonder if such tourist hubs come into existence it would generate enormous opportunities, but only time would tell where it would lead. Are we heading for more Manalis and Shimlas with everyone trying to have a share of the pie? It can be said that if not regulated properly, these hubs would soon mushroom into unplanned and haphazard areas as has happened with all major tourist town in the state.
The solution lies in deciding beforehand what is the safe limit – how much tourist activity should be allowed in such areas, and to what extend natural resources need to be utilised for such activities. It would be better to invite big players to build such hubs and then allow small entrepreneurs to set up ancillary units to develop a symbiotic arrangement.
But the government should also not forget to spread the network far and wide. So rather than concentrating on developing such hubs, the focus should be more on encouraging small tourism related entrepreneurial ventures in virgin areas. The government should also think about utilising its own untapped infrastructures in promoting tourism. Government forest houses are part of this infrastructure that can be converted into tourist bungalows. The government can invite entrepreneurs to operate such rest houses, most of them having a British connection, The possibilities are certainly unlimited.