BY PRANIL SUBBA
GANGTOK, February 27: ‘Small but Beautiful’ Sikkim has not only bagged yet another tourism award but this Himalayan State has also cemented its position as a most sought after destination in the nation.
This actuality is reflected strongly in the phenomenal growth in terms of tourism flow to Sikkim in 2008 and another national tourism award from Ministry of Tourism that was given on February 24.
The award, national tourism award 2007-08 as the Best State for tourism related programmes was received by the State tourism secretary SBS Bhadauria from Union Home minister P Chidambaram in the presence of Union Tourism minister Ambika Soni at the awards function held in New Delhi.
Speaking to media here today, Mr. Bhadauria said that this was the 14th major award won by Sikkim in the field of tourism in the last decade due to the dedication and enthusiasm of the State government which had been instrumental in achieving the goals.
“The award proves Sikkim has been firmly placed in the global tourism scene and we have created our own brand called Sikkim”, said the tourism secretary. He said that it was a proud moment for the State with the unyielding zeal and dedication of all stakeholders and the firm support of the government. We hope to achieve as the best tourism destination in the country, he added.
It is to be mentioned here that Sikkim has bagged the best tourism performing State in the North east region for six consecutive years in the past from the MoT.
Recently Sikkim have also bagged the best eco-tourism destination, most picturesque destination, best community based tourism, emerging tourism state, best tourism State for adventure from reputed organizations at the national level.
The tourism secretary said that around 4.5 lakh domestic tourists and 23,000 foreign tourists visited the State in 2008. He said this was about 25 per cent increase from that of the previous year. In the previous year, around 3.8 domestic tourists and 18,000 foreigners had visited Sikkim.
Despite the bandhs and the disturbances in the neighbouring regions, this was a record for the state, Mr. Bhadauria said. He also said that as per the analysis, the quality of tourism had also increased manifolds and there was now ‘no off-season’ with visitors coming to the State throughout the year.
The tourism secretary claimed that Sikkim today was the most sought after destination for domestic as well as foreign tourists coming to the country and had made significant presence in the tourism map. The destinations and infrastructure have been developed to a great extent within a short period of time making Sikkim greatly attractive to the visitors, he added.
Mr. Bhadauria informed that a State tourism policy was in the final stages of preparation and the final policy would be put forward to the government in the first quarter of the coming fiscal year. The draft tourism policy would comprise of a normal tourism policy for the State and a separate tourism policy for village tourism.
“The tourism in the state is moving and progressing in a cautious manner so that there are no ills associated, the tourism secretary said.
Speaking on the carrying capacity and adequate infrastructure, Mr. Bhadauria spelled out that the carrying capacity depended on management. “The tour operators, hoteliers as well as the various committees, involved in the promotion of tourism in the state as well as all stakeholders have put in a lot of effort to make this possible. They are working on long term eco-friendly developments which are sustainable, have minimum effect on the fragile eco system”, he said.
Mr. Bhaduaria said the government was coming up with more infrastructures, create trained man power and improve services to provide quality tourism. He said the capacity building programmes and motivation were being carried out to encourage the sector further.