Darj bandh shuts down Sikkim’s tourism sector as well

Gangtok, 25 Jun:

Unrest in the neighbouring Darjeeling and indefinite bandh in peak tourist season has severely impacted the economy generated through the tourism industry in Sikkim. The contrast is made starker by the fact that Summer 2017 was developing into a record-breaking “tourist season”.

Gangtok and its surroundings offer numerous attractions and activities like road trips to Tsomgo, sightseeing to Rumtek, Hanuman Tok, and Ganesh Tok. In the backdrop of the indefinite bandh, the inflow of tourist has decreased. Tourists are either forced to cut their trips short or cancel their bookings altogether. All these have affected the business at a time when it should have been at its busiest.

There have also been instances of tourists spending their final days in Gangtok standing in queues to get a ticket out to Siliguri instead of sightseeing or shopping here.

Lhamu Sherpa, a resident of Bojoghari, who has set up a stall at Tashi View Point and has been doing good business there for the past six years, stated that due to the situation in the neighbouring Hills and the fall in tourist arrivals it has caused, her business has gone down dramatically. Where earlier she used to easily earn Rs 1,000-2,000 daily, now she takes home a meagre amount of Rs 200-300 only.

Similarly, Badal Kumar, who has set up a fruit stall at tashi View Point, voiced his concerns over the scarcity of tourists during the expected peak season.

Paridhi Agarwal, who has come to Sikkim with her family from Raipur, Chattisgarh, shared that they had to change their itinerary which included a two-day stay at Darjeeling and are enjoying their last day doing sight-seeing in Gangtok, hoping to get a vehicle to Siliguri by Sunday afternoon.

The drivers at the Taxi stand located at Chandmari, providing services to Kupup, Tsomgo, Zuluk, Nathu La, stated that during the tourist season almost 30-40 vehicles are hired for the tourists alone. Otherwise there are only eight daily local services. But the past week has marked a sharp decline in their business. And this, immediately after a bumper season in the earlier days of summer.

The Sikkim Hotel and Restaurant Association (SHRA) president, Pema Lhamu Lamtha, informed that the prevailing circumstances has paralysed the tourism sector in Sikkim.

Hotels had bookings upto mid-July, but in light of uncertainties in the region, tourists have cancelled their bookings and this has affected the marginal business even harder.

She went on to state that it is out of their control, the tourists want to get away from the tensions and conflicts. The SHRA is working in collaboration with Travel Agents Association of Sikkim (TAAS), Motor Vehicles Division, and the Police Department in providing safe passage for the tourists stranded due to the unrest.

The Sikkim Tourist Information Centre is located at MG Marg and all the information required by the tourists are made available there. The SHRA has instructed all the travel operators and the Hotels to inform the tourists about the travel arrangements provided by the State Government. SHRA has requested the respective hotels to provide free accommodations and meals to the tourists in emergency situation.