Gangtok, 19 Aug:
Among the books and reports released by Chief Minister Pawan Chamling on Independence Day was the long-awaited Sikkim Tourism Policy 2018.
The Sikkim Tourism Policy, a press communiqué informs, is grounded on the guiding principles of environmental sustainability, cultural integrity, equity inclusiveness and social justice, and athithi devo bhava with a vision to make Sikkim “a highly valued responsible tourism destination with tourism contributing significantly to the state economy while conserving its natural and cultural heritage.”
Drafted by WWF-India and Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim (ECOSS), the policy document commissioned by the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department, is an outcome of a long participatory process comprising of a series of brainstorming and successive meetings with the tourism stakeholders, scholars, experts and officers from various line departments, it is explained.
A draft of the Tourism Policy was also put up for comments on the Tourism Department’s website to seek inputs from the public at large, and the suggestions were reviewed and incorporated into the final draft. The National Tourism Policy 2002 and the tourism policies of other states were also consulted while preparing the draft.
Tourism in Sikkim has seen tremendous growth in the past few decades with total tourist arrivals reaching 14.25 lakhs in 2017.
The policy was felt necessary because having come this far, an urgent need was felt to look into future growth and the direction of tourism in the state for the next few decades.
Sikkim’s need for a sustainable tourism policy had been expressed by Tourism Minister Ugen T Gyatso and Lok Sabha MP PD Rai at a stakeholders’ workshop on sustainable tourism held way back in 2014 by WWF and ECOSS.
Work on the policy commenced in 2015 when a steering committee was formed by the Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation comprising of representatives of the tourism industry and the Department and was spearheaded by WWF and ECOSS..
The key goals of the policy are: Developing tourism as a key sector in Sikkim’s economy; Promoting low impact sustainable tourism; Making Sikkim a prime round the year destination for nature, adventure and culture based tourism within India and globally; Ensuring tourism benefits are broad based to support local, social and economic development and also ensure social justice; ensuring all tourism infrastructure and services shall be of the best standards and quality delivering a consistent high level of satisfaction and hospitality to tourists.
In terms of tourism products, the policy has recommended focus on the following sectors:
a) Conventional leisure based tourism, b) Nature based tourism or Ecotourism c) Adventure based tourism d) Culture based tourism & village homestays e) Religion based tourism f) MICE tourism (Meetings Incentives, Events, Conferences and Exhibitions) and g) Health and Wellness Tourism
In order to achieve the vision and goals of the policy a set of objectives and strategies have been laid out that emphasise on establishing and strengthening institutional structures to promote, manage and implement responsible tourism in Sikkim.
The policy also talks about enhancing the skills and capacity for quality service delivery in tourism sector and seeks to bring synergy between the various training and capacity building efforts that are underway in the state through different agencies, and to provide uniform training modules through concerted efforts of all stakeholders. Promoting standards and certification for the tourism industry is another important objective that the policy includes, looking at all sectors of the industry from hotels to homestays, travel operators, guides, drivers, etc.
The policy also spells out modalities for managing tourism destinations, infrastructure and amenities created by the department, and strongly recommends carrying capacity exercises for certain ecologically sensitive areas that are fast developing as mass tourist destinations. The policy further recommends that the state should look at high value and high quality tourism products to have lower impact on these areas, which has also been recommended in the Sikkim EcoTourism Policy earlier.
Ensuring strategic and sustained marketing and publicity for the state is also a strong focus of the policy as well as promoting enabling environment for local tourism stakeholders.
Overall the policy also seeks to facilitate inter-sectoral coordination and convergence with all other relevant departments, and to that end the establishment of the Inter- Departmental Coordination Committee as mandated by the National Tourism Policy shall be the first step towards policy implementation.
The policy document can be accessed at the Departments’ website at