Nagaland: Revisiting tourism in COVID-19 era through the 'Khonoma experience’

Khonoma: With COVID-19 severely impacting the tourism sector, local residents from Khonoma village — Asia’s first green village located in Nagaland — on Saturday deliberated extensively on how to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Stakeholders from the village community and representatives of the state government reimagined tourism in the COVID-19 era through a dialogue, ‘The Khonoma Experience — Tourism Strategies for the New Millennium’, organised by the Dolhuni Dzüviu Golato (DDG) Kikramia (family).

While addressing the gathering at the dialogue, Abu Metha, adviser to the state chief minister, while addressing the gathering, urged the local community to put in their collective effort in providing experiential tourism activities, ensuring that everyone, including locals, benefits from the experiences.

Abu Metha, advisor to Nagaland CM, speaking at the event

He urged the locals to use the ‘lockdown’ period to strengthen and introspect on what tourism model needs to be practiced in the state—with the aim to further improve, upscale and add value to the services so that the state of Nagaland may “propel” to a different stage. He suggested that a target be set so that activities can quickly be picked, post the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sensing the need to have tourism strategies and policies, he urged the stakeholders to provide policy inputs and help the state government in promoting the sector. Citing a survey conducted by the state government, he said that the 10-day Hornbill Festival made an economic impact of around Rs 106 crore, providing 8,000 job opportunities, with an investment of Rs 5 crore.

In this regard, he said that tourism “can and will succeed” as the state has rich culture, heritage, biodiversity, and its hospitality to offer. Even with the changes that may take place in tourism services, he reminded there should be no loss of identity or destruction of the Naga culture and way of life.

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Assuring that the state government will provide “full support” to the enhance the tourism activities in Khonoma, he challenged the locals to make the tourism services in Khonoma, a model that other villages across the state can replicate. The politician also highlighted about the potentials of Khonoma becoming a weekend getaway for residents in Kohima.

Metha also assured that the government will consider formulating a birding circuit, besides providing capacity building programmes, and helping the locals in digitizing the local businesses.

While speaking at the event, tourism director Ajanuo Belho said that with COVID-19 immensely affecting the tourism industry, the government has adopted strategies for revival and sustenance of the industry. To improve governance in the sector, she said that Local Tourism Observatories will be set up with stakeholders to generate reliable data in tracking customer behaviour and preferences.

She said that taxes, charges will be reviewed and transport will be regulated considering the interest of customers and viability of business as well. It will also introduce client safety measures with emphasis on COVID-19 safety. In capacity building, skill development especially enhancement in digital skills and digital payment systems will be promoted.

With huge number of tourists coming into the village, she suggested that more facilities and personalized service be provided by the village for higher revenue generation.

Kezhasezo Kenneth Punyü, who chaired the session, narrated on how Khonoma village began the conservation of its natural flora and fauna not just for the benefit of the village but for the state as a whole. He also shared about the role played by the Khonoma Nature Conservation and Tragopan Sanctuary (KNCTS) Trust, Khonoma Youth Organisation, Khonoma Students Union, the community and all stakeholders involved in the success of Khonoma becoming a top tourist destination in Nagaland.

He also briefly highlighted about how the DDG group, comprising of people between 48-55 years from three Khels (clans), was formed 20 years ago to contribute towards conservation, eco-tourism activities and work for the welfare of the people.

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