Sikkim and her ironical sustainable tourism
Sikkim has seen rapid development in the field of tourism and hospitality. Nature’s bounty and thrust by the government in this sector has resulted in many Sikkimese coming out of the poverty line. However, there are many more avenues Sikkim has not explored which over the years have seen unprecedented growth across the country and particularly in the North East.
Yearly calendar events with tourism as its focus remain elusive in Sikkim. If one analyses the Hornbill Festival in Nagaland since its inception until this year, the festival has not just gained popularity with each passing year amongst tourists but has also managed to pitch Nagaland as one of the sought after destinations in North East due to the popular festival. Such examples are many in different states of India and particularly in the North East. Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya have their own share of festivals which has made the entire region a hotbed for tourists. These festivals are mostly focused on music, food and culture.
In Sikkim, the erstwhile government had started the Red Panda Winter Carnival. While this step was a welcome relief even for the locals and deserve appreciation, the execution part had many complaining including visitors who said that the festival was “substandard” in subsequent years.
The state is replete with so many themes and with the kind of human resource available, Sikkim has a bright chance to have not just one but multiple calendar events of international stature.
International stature does not necessarily mean pumping in lots of money but it is a seriously planned and uniquely crafted event that can act as a big boost to the fledgeling tourism industry of Sikkim.
While talking with many stakeholders in the tourism industry, the need for yearly calendar events with an eye of tourism, particularly in non-tourist seasons have been felt. In other North-Eastern states, the focus on music, food and culture has resulted in a manifold increase in footfalls of tourists, national and international.
Among the small states of India, Goa leads with events like Goa Carnival and International Film Festival of India. This tourist-friendly state has been growing in many avenues of the tourism sector including film and entertainment industry.
The need to look beyond the traditional angle for tourism in Sikkim has been felt now more than ever. The volume of tourist inflow in Sikkim during peak visiting season is putting a severe strain in the state resources as the focus is solely in some areas of the state. Identification of unexplored areas for festivals and promotion of sustainable tourism through quality events in all-season can also reduce severely strained resources of places like Gangtok and Namchi which is flooded with tourists.
The quality of calendar events plays a prime role in attracting tourists with higher spending capacity. It now requires a serious introspection on part of the government and stakeholders. The way the state or any calendar event is promoted also has a direct bearing on the quality and quantity of tourists that visit Sikkim.
Calendar events are an important aspect of tourism for any country or region. Sikkim with all its potential and uniqueness has failed to have a sustainable approach to tourism which now urgently requires a complete overhaul of its policy.