The famed Hornbill Festival in Nagaland is unlikely to be held this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, a senior official said on Monday.
The 10-day Hornbill Festival that usually starts on December 1 celebrates the culture and heritage of different tribes of the state. It is attended by lakhs of people from across India and abroad.
The tourism industry is in a dire condition due to the pandemic and if the situation doesn't improve, the state government may not be in a position to host the Hornbill Festival, Tourism Advisor H Khehovi Yepthomi told reporters.
The tourism industry in Nagaland is largely dependent on the mega event with the festivities starting as early as mid-October at local levels and culminating in December.
The festival enables tour operators, hoteliers, guides, transporters and a myriad of handicraft artisans and restaurant owners to earn enough to sustain them through the lean monsoon season, Yepthomi said.
We have absolutely no tourist traffic since February and we are certain that if this dire situation continues then the entire industry will collapse in another six months," he added.
The festival, for which thousands of people make travel plans not only to Nagaland but also several other states in the Northeast, is being held over the last 20 years.
Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for Aatma Nirbhar Bharat, Yepthomi said small-scale theme-based events can be organised in district headquarters like Made in Nagaland, Crafted in Nagaland, Flowers of Nagaland, etc so as to manage crowding and this will also act as the right platform in giving opportunities to local entrepreneurs in rebuilding a community towards sustainability, which has always been the goal of Hornbill Festival.
The state's tourism industry will also get an opportunity to revive itself, he said. The scale and the type of the festival may be considered after studying the ground realities in October-November, he said.
Stating that the Tourism Department is working out a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for a steady reopening, Yemtphomi said the sector will have to redesign its services and utilities and institute certain protocols, including social distancing rules, contactless payment, besides management of the number of people within a facility.
The department is working to set up Destination Management Organisations in coordination with representatives from key departments of the state such as Health, Home, Transport and Municipal Affairs to ensure efficient flow of tourists, and safe and sustainable use of tourism services and infrastructure, he said.
Yepthomi, an MLA, said the Tourism Department would hold a consultative meeting with Kohima-based tribal hohos for their views before taking any decision on the Hornbill Festival.
He said the government has started gathering details of around 20,000 people who came back to the state from other parts of the country due to the lockdown to conduct training for skill enhancement so that they can be provided employment in the hospitality sector.
We are trying to provide employment opportunities to these people and will come out with the modalities within a couple of weeks, he said.