Who Controls Sikkim’s Tourism?

Foreign Tourist with villager and horse, Sikkim's tourism
Foreign Tourist with villager and horse, Sikkim's tourism

Couched below a picture of the Himalayan Red Panda, the state Animals, the inscription on a pamphlet by the Sikkim’s Tourism Department reads, “Sikkim- Where Nature Smile.” They often dubbed “Satyajit Ray’s 1971 famous banned movie called “Sikkim” which describes Sikkim markets itself as a “high-end” and “Premium” tourism destination for exclusive people. 

The state’s tourism is inspired by the Mountain which controls by outside force with no license sending cheap packages which package includes “Harassment & over Charging” in the ends, where the tourism department doesn’t even know how to control this all and who benefits into it. Puspalal, a simple driver from west Sikkim used to face maximum harassment from tourists as his package was sent as “Maximum visit in lesser charge”

Whereas many people used to say Sikkim’s economy depend on tourism, nevertheless it’s not true, unlike ladhak & Bhutan all homestay and hotel run by the owner itself as target rural tourism, but here in Sikkim despite being small state entire hotel own by retired offical who simply want to lease to Bengali businessman which doesn’t contribute to the local economic engine. If you go to Zuluk of East maximum number of people who control tourism is from Nepal, 2019 Indian Army asked Sikkim Government to evaluate non-resident people from that area whereas opposition party opposed and govt failed to control it, zuluk is actually controlled by an army which attaches maximum tourist but what is the benefit for the state?  

Rather than quantity, Sikkim should focus on a multidimensional strategy of development for long run that propagates the idea that human development goes beyond economic growth and involves social, environmental, cultural, and governance dimensions.

In just under half a century since Sikkim merged with India, in 1975, the industry has emerged as one of the most important sectors for GNH-driven growth in 2002. The state wan to focus on bringing a large number of quantity tourists instead of focusing on quality tourists who bring “high value, low volume” which emphasises maximising the economic benefits of tourism—through generating increased employment and foreign-currency reserves—while minimising its negative impacts on the indigenous culture and environment by controlling tourist arrivals through a daily-tariff system.

In 2009, however, Sikkim’s tourism took a major turn when the government announced a “high tourist, more revenue” policy, which was one of the bigger blunders done by the Chamling government. Following the policy, Sikkim witnessed a significant increase in regional tourist arrivals from countries such as Kolkota, Bihar, and South India—the number of the regional tourist grew to 27,834 and 33,091 tourists in January and February 2009 respectively against 18,122 and 20,430 in 2008. But the decline of foreign tourists was also seen in the same years when Bhutan witnessed a massive increase of foreign tourists on a limited basis.

Sikkim known as a kingdom once, a small country ruled by the Maharaja of Sikkim, where Satyajit ray once said, Sikkim markets itself as a “high-end” and “Premium” tourism destination for exclusive people like Bhutan due to its kingdom rule. Nevertheless, we focused on more “Quantity than Quality” which made no people ever benefit from tourism even airplanes started flying in Sikkim.

Take the example of Namthang- Rateypani Village about 21 kilometers from the gateway to Sikkim also known as an organic farming village attach no tourism as there is nothing to show anything. Few tourists stop there who are on the way to West Sikkim. Quantity of Tourism only focuses on two things – Mountain and Snow whereas Quality of Tourism attaches everything from farming to adventure to rural connection in large number which can be frequently attraction. 

A few days ago in seasonal time, there was a large number of complaints coming from visitors, some claimed that they had extremely bad experience traveling to Sikkim.

What can be more than a bad example of Ranka Amusement Park & Banjhakri falls, where a family of four traveled from Gangtok to Ranka to see something up there, when in return, they found out the gate with sealed lock with written temporary closed. 

In Social Media, Saurabh Mishra thought Sikkim is a very less populated area with good transportation can go via bus who later wrote in Social Media “The Taxi Service in Sikkim is very unorganised. They will cramp a 7 seater SUV with 10 people… like a herd of cattle, in Sikkim. a very bad state of public transportation” 

On the same comment made by another visitor, “Sikkim treats tourists arrogantly, and yes we did find kind of people especially women at the stall but the driver and hotel owner was very impolite and the service was bad too. Vegetarians should go to Sikkim just to strive or be treated badly”

But the question is everyone is questioning about tourism control in Sikkim who’s behind the back? As both Banjhakri Falls and Ranka Park are temporarily closed due to non-payment of lease amount crore. Why lease them when they can’t or don’t know how to operate tourism business or it’s just political motive to give whoever they want to with political connection. Everyone knows Sikkim’s people are so keen to lease out hotels to other people and keep complaining about influxes surge. Also, Hotel doesn’t employ local because they can easily find cheap labor from Bengal or Bihar. The majority of the private employees in Sikkim are migrated from Darjeeling. 

Tourism in Sikkim doesn’t need explanation if it goes into Quality way which will run for the long term, quality of tourism will bring bold revenue like Bhutan, they don’t even care they just wanted to be more quality in tourism. The last time Bhutan imposed 1200 Rupees per day fees to Indian large number of Quality tourists turned up. 

The government of Sikkim needs to think about building Quality of Tourism, focusing on the large number in rural than in urban ones. Soon tourism will vanish if nothing was done for the development of tourism.

It can easily affect the development and behavior in the era of social media if someone complains. If someone posts how driver and hotel owner is harassing in Sikkim on the social media platform they will find a way to change the destination to Ladhak who are working more in quality of tourism by local himself, it can harm Sikkim’s tourism in future.

Also Read| Sikkim’s Manipal Hospital Receives NABH certificate


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