SIKKIM TOURISM: Remote but ready to grow – Sikkim travel agents adopt eight pockets for tourism

SIKKIM TOURISM: Remote but ready to grow – Sikkim travel agents adopt eight pockets for tourism – slow and steady wins the race, thinking of every angle way before-hand ?!!

Lingtam in East Sikkim which has been adopted by TAAS - encompassing all angles ?!! (Prabin Khaling)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Gangtok, Sept. 7: New tourist destinations are on the rise in Sikkim with the travel agents’ association adopting eight areas for their remoteness and natural endowment.

The memorandums of understanding for a two-year period were handed over to the respective tourism development committees from the eight unexplored pockets by the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim (TAAS) yesterday.

“The committees will analyse the MoU and a formal agreement will be reached within a week,” TAAS president Lukendra Rasaily had said at Janta Bhavan here yesterday.

The villagers at the meeting at Janta Bhavan - where the community matters most, unlike in Bengal ?!! (Prabin Khaling)

While Dzongu in North Sikkim has been selected for promotion of tourism based on organic farming and culture of the indigenous Lepcha community, Lachen has been chosen for the trek to Green Lake at 12,000ft.

In South Sikkim, the TAAS has shown an interest in Sumbuk and Kitam villages for wellness, Borong for adventure sports and Yangyang village for natural and cultural tours. Submuk and Kitam are located along the Rangit river and near the Kitam Bird Sanctuary. Melli Aching in West Sikkim, which is the gateway to the newly notified Pangmelung Singalila trekking trail, has been adopted for adventure tourism.

The Rhenock-Rongli-Aritar-Lingtam axis in East Sikkim has also been taken up by the TAAS for promotion of cultural and nature-based tourism. This axis covers the route from Rongli to Nathu-la and is near the Fhabonglo Wildlife Sanctuary.

All these areas are relatively unexplored from the tourism point of view and were adopted after two years of study.

“There has been a lot of talk about village tourism over the years. We discussed with the state government and interacted with the villagers for two years before we concluded that these eight areas should be taken up for quality tourism promotion by TAAS with support from the state government,” said the TAAS president.

The TAAS will promote and market the eight destinations for two years. During the period, the apex body of tour operators will train the villagers on how to protect their ethnicity, culture, environment and the people, including tourists. “Our role will be to bring tourists, facilitate and co-ordinate with government and other support agencies and train the local people (on how to cater to tourists),” said Rasaily. At the end of two years, if the TAAS feels there is more to be done, then the timeframe will be extended.

The creation of new destinations will also ensure that tourists are not concentrated in one area during the peak season, he said.

The development of homestays and providing good service to visitors will be the responsibility of the respective tourism committees while the state government will create the required infrastructure.

State tourism secretary S.B.S. Bhaduaria said the government was committed to village tourism. “We have already prepared a detailed project report for village tourism promotion and within a year, work will begin at the ground-level for construction of approach roads and tourism related infrastructure,” he said.

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