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Deep Moni Gogoi and Ugen Bhutia
Date of Publish: 2017-01-12

Sikkim tourism gets a boost with New York Times listing it in 52 places to go in 2017

 

 

A view of the Tsongo Lake (Photo - Deep Moni Gogoi )

In a vast and diverse country like India it is a tough job for a tiny state like Sikkim to assert its own identity at a national level. However, in recent times this seems to be changing and the small north eastern state of Sikkim has emerged as one of the favorite tourist destinations in both the national and international level. The New York Times on 4th January this year listed Sikkim in its 52 Places to go in 2017 list. It is important to note that this is not the first time that Sikkim was visible in the international tourism sphere. In 2014 Lonely Planet listed Sikkim in the top 10 travel destinations from around the world. A look into some aspects of tourism sector in the state explains how an inclusive approach harvests the positive results for its tourism industry.

The Char Dham in Namchi (Photo - Deep Moni Gogoi )

At present Sikkim attracts more than seven lakhs tourists annually from home and abroad. The number has been increasing each year. One of the main reasons for this has been the development and the promotion of various forms of tourism in Sikkim. As the word ‘tourist’ is a nomenclature which may comprise individuals with various interests, the state tends to provide different forms of experiences to its visitors. Those whose interest lies in religious site is attracted through pilgrimage tourism and to those who want to experience adventure is offered mountain biking, Himalayan expedition, paragliding, trekking and sports.

Promoting Homestay  (pic- Kachyo Lepcha)  

The state has seen village or rural tourism gaining much popularity in recent times. Since the beginning of the year 2000, the State government has been focusing on rural tourism. It was initiated to ensure that the benefits of tourism goes directly to the rural masses. The concept of “Homestay” as an integral part of rural tourism which highlights the desirable blend of state government intiative and the people’s participation. The idea behind the concept of homestay is to provide a clean and affordable place for the tourists so that they can experience the local traditions and culture by living together with the locals. Like any other state in the north east, Sikkim too is affected by unemployment and therefore, it is also a strategic move by the state government to produce income in rural areas. In the year between 2012 and 2014 more than seven hundred individuals were given capacity building training in hospitality and homestay. Government also provides monetary help for those who wants to be part of this scheme. The success of this concept can be gauged from the fact that even the private homestays are now springing up. Last year Tourism and Civil Aviation Department of government of Sikkim identified and listed 565 homestays in the state. This number is much lesser in reality because many self-financed homestays are not registered with the department. 

A view of Mangan   (pic- Kachyo Lepcha)  

It is also important to mention here some other areas in which the inclusive approach of the state authorities has directly or indirectly benefited the tourism sector.

The dilemma between development and protection of ecology looms large in the Sikkimese society. In addition, the positive data of increasing number of tourists in the state also demands the better facilities in transportation and accommodation. This dilemma needs major consideration because the state boasts about its green sceneries with the motto ‘Clean and Green Sikkim’. However, what is ravishing on this issue is that the people enthusiastically participates in the plantation programs organized by the authorities. In the year 2009 and 2010 under the themes ‘Ten Minutes to Greenery’ and ‘Ten Minutes to Earth’ respectively more than 12 lakhs samplings of indigenous plant like rhododendrons and trees like Chaap, Cherry and Guava were planted.

Promoting Homestay  (pic- Kachyo Lepcha)  

On September last year Sikkim outdid other states in the cleanliness survey carried out by National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). This was also a major achievement for the state which as mentioned earlier promotes its tourism with the motto ‘Clean and Green Sikkim’. Mention may also be made of the Sikkim was awarded as the cleanest hill station of 2015 in India by the India Today Group. Cleanliness in Sikkim is being achieved by the equal contribution of the state authorities and its people. In regular intervals state authorities together with NGOs and other civil societies conducts workshop on sanitation and cleanliness. In each locality local bodies has been formed for collecting garbage from each house against the fees ranging from 50rs to 70rs for each house.

A view of the Tsongo Lake (Photo - Deep Moni Gogoi )

Another feather in Sikkim’s hat is its organic mission which enable it to declare it as the fully organic state in India. The state government had decided to start its organic mission in the year 2003 and by 2016 it became a fully organic state. Its organic status also places Sikkim in a unique position to attract tourist looking for fresh fruits and spices as mentioned in The New York Times article.

A view of Gangtok - nezine.com file photo

The listing of Sikkim in The New York Times article as one of the places to visit in 2017 is an important recognition which will further benefit the tourism industry of the state. The recognition can be seen as a success of the inclusive approach to the growth of tourism industry where the common citizen are equal stakeholder along with the state government. It can also serve as an example to other northeastern states of India where huge possibilities are still unexplored.   

 Deep Moni Gogoi and Ugen Bhutia

(Deep Moni Gogoi is a Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Mass Communication,  Sikkim university. He can be reached at deep19d@gmil.com.

Ugen Bhutiya is a Doctoral Fellow at the Department of History, Sikkim university. He can be reached at bhutiaups@gmail.com )

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