All hotels across Shillong are set to reopen from July 1 even though tourists are restricted, Shillong Times reported. The reopening of the hospitality sector is the last in the series of measures the government has taken to ease the lockdown in the state. Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong explained that the decision to reopen the hotels was arrived at after receiving inputs from deputy commissioners.
The decision was taken in an online meeting convened by the Meghalaya Rural Tourism Forum (MRTF) earlier this week
The state government would issue the protocols and SOPs to be followed by the hotels. The government has mentioned that hotels marked as designated quarantine centers would continue to remain so. Earlier, the government had directed the DCs of 11 districts to consult with all the stakeholders up to the village level on reopening of hotels and tourist spots. The traditional heads of villages in Khasi and Jaintia Hills and Ri-Bhoi district have decided against tourism activities to resume or reopening of hotels, homestays and guest houses. The President of the MRTF, Alan West Kharkongor, stated that the decision was taken due to the spike in COVID-19 cases in the country and particularly in neighboring Assam. Domestic tourism was also restricted within the state for the time being.
The villages which have decided not to allow tourism activities in their areas are Hima Mawphlang, Hima Sohra, Khliehshnong Sohra, Pdengshnong Sohra, Mawsmai-Nongthymmai Elaka, Saitsohpen Elaka, Dympep, Mawkdok, Laitryngew, Mawkma, Kutmadan, Tyrna and Nongriat under Sohra Sub-Division; Riwai, Mawlynnong, and Umsyiem under Pynursla Sub-Division; Shnongpdeng, Kudengrim, Dawki and Darrang under West Jaintia Hills and Lawbah under East Khasi Hills. However, villages like Mawkdok and Dympep are against the resumption of tourism activities due to instances of abuse of the environment in the last few weeks. That goes against their effort to keep their localities green and clean.
Kharkongor said that only a few villages, including Mawphanlur in West Khasi Hills, Mawlyngbna in East Khasi Hills, and Sohliya and Umber in Ri-Bhoi district may allow local tourists after the government decides on the matter but with strict adherence to SOPs and protocols. All the traditional heads agreed that mass tourism should be controlled, with the proper policy in place to take care of the environment.
A balance between economy and environment should be maintained
“We have to find out ways and means to instill in people’s minds the importance of taking care of the environment while we benefit from it”, said Shembhalang Kharwanlang, headman of Khliehshnong Sohra. Meanwhile, the Tour Operators Association of Meghalaya (TOAM), which also took part in the online meeting, is in favor of “surviving, reviving and thriving” the tourism scenario in the state. The statement said that TOAM is against the idea of allowing tourists from outside the state and would rather wait for not less than three months. The association supports opening the sites for local tourists, provided SOPs are strictly followed. This can help the economy of those stakeholders affected by the pandemic. It has also called for reviewing the tourism policy of the state, considering the post-COVID-19 situation.