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Monday, Sep 28, 2020 10:45 [IST]

Last Update: Monday, Sep 28, 2020 05:01 [IST]

Not the time for vacations

Sikkim’s fast growing popularity as one of the most favoured tourist destinations in the country have brought in much needed economic growth in the State in recent years. Not only it has generated local employment, it has also firmly put us in the eco-tourism map of the world. Business was brisk and the future looked bright. Until, Covid-19 happened.

Coronavirus pandemic situation in India and all over the world has hit the tourism industry hard. While the industry is struggling to recover, governments and other agencies have been working on policies to attract tourists by assuring full-proof safety against the highly contagious disease.

Sikkim is all set to revive tourism activities in the State. The State Tourism department has formed strategies to ensure safe tourism amid the contemporary circumstances by issuing Standard operating procedures (SOP’s). Come October, the hotels and tourist destinations in the State will open its doors to visitors. Even as we observed World Tourism Day 2020 on September 27, with “Tourism and Rural Development” as the theme for this year, two major tourism destinations in the State has said a firm no to the plans of the government to resume tourism activities.

The LachungDzomsa in North Sikkim and Yuksam in West Sikkim has decided to keep away tourists till November end this year. A few of private resort owners have also said they will not reopen for visitors anytime soon.

This decision by these major players makes perfect sense, even though the industry has taken a severe beating. According to industry experts, India's tourism sector will continue to struggle despite reopening of the historic TajMahal and other top attractions as part of the country's ongoing efforts to kick-start the economy because no one is willing to take the risk and travel for vacations.

While restrictions are steadily being relaxed and the peak festive travel season is approaching, hoteliers fear there will not be a rush of domestic travellers given the spread of the virus and low consumer confidence as people are concerned about their jobs. Hoteliers have also faced the challenge of having to adapt to the crisis to reassure travellers they are safe and meet government requirements, including investing in sanitisation equipment and training staff in the necessary hygiene procedures. This comes as hotels are also seeing a sharp drop in room rates.

The only way the industry can survive this pandemic is through government interventions. With a slow recovery expected, many industry insiders lament that there has not been a bailout package specifically for the travel and tourism sector.

The government must consider a recovery package from the government backing loans for small- and medium-sized businesses in the tourism industry. There is no point in opening the borders when the Covid-19 risks are still high and no one wiling to travel for travel’s sake.

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi