SIKKIM TOURISM: Check on Sikkim tour torture – Registration must for travel operators – touts preying on the unwary, spoiling Sikkim’s hard earned reputation ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT
Gangtok, Oct. 22: The Sikkim government has decided to allow only registered tour operators to ferry visitors to restricted places like Tsomgo Lake in East district and Yumthang in North.
The move follows fleecing of tourists by drivers and touts during the weeklong Puja vacation when there was shortage of vehicles and the administration was on a holiday,
The government took the decision invoking provisions under Sikkim Tourist Trade Act 1998 and Sikkim Registration of Tourist Trade Rules, 2008.
“Only those operators who are registered with the tourism department will be given permission to provide vehicular service to people visiting the restricted areas of Sikkim. Provisions under the 1998 act and the 2008 rules empower the tourism department to take such a decision,” said state tourism secretary S.B.S. Bhadauria.
The official said the department had received complaints that some hoteliers and taxi drivers were charging extra money from the tourists.
“Harassment of tourists will create a negative impression and in the long run, people will look for other destinations,” said Bhadauria, appealing to all tourism stakeholders to treat the guests with respect and honour so that they could go back with pleasant memories.
The Travel Agents Association of Sikkim said some taxi drivers had charged Rs 12,000 for a trip from Gangtok to Yumthang, while the normal rate was Rs 3,500.
“There were also instances when tourists had to shell out Rs 4,500 to Rs 5,000 for trips to Tsomgo Lake and Baba Mandir in East district during Puja. (Normal fare for travel to these destinations is Rs 2,000),” said Lukendra Rasaily, the president of the association.
The association held a meeting with the Sikkim Hotels and Restaurant Association here yesterday to discuss the problems faced by the visitors. Later, the office bearers of both the organisations met Bhadauria and impressed upon him the need to fetter unauthorised tour operators.
“Action will be taken against anybody found harassing and misbehaving with tourists. We have given sufficient time to tour operators and hotels to get registered with us after fulfilling certain requirements. Now onwards, the department will be strict and won’t tolerate any nonsense,” said the tourism secretary.
He said officials had started patrolling all four districts in the state to prevent the fleecing of tourists by drivers because of vehicle shortage.