Responsible tourism- the only way to sustainable tourism

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Overcharging of tourist vehicle tarnishing the image of Sikkim Tourism

The tourism industry in the state of Sikkim has been booming manifolds and with the intervention from the highest level to push up this industry it is targeted to break its own records make many new ones in achievement. This industry is not growing alone but it is taking the people engaged in it directly or indirectly along, ahead. The statistical report availed from the department of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Government of Sikkim of the last five years has showed an incredible increase in the inflow of tourist in both international and domestic. The report says that in the year 2005 the inflow of tourist in case of domestic recorded is about 347650 and of international tourist at 16518, whereas the recorded data proves that in the year 2010 the domestic tourist touched the mark of 700011 and international tourist to about 20757 which in the five years data is the highest. The current data for the year 2011 which is assembled from the month of January till April shows that a total of 244642 domestic tourists have already visited Sikkim whereas 7539 were international tourist.

This industry is however not just about revenue, it is synonymous with hospitability, in other words all concerned must understand that the saying “atithi devo bhava” holds equal truth and relevance even today after hundreds of years of being coined in some scriptures. The state government has really prioritized the tourism industry in the state and every possible steps in tourism sector has been carried out like the recent one of building of way side amenity and many more but the overcharging by drivers during peak season to tourists is still not curbed after much effort. This is in a way totally overshadowing the happy and welcoming picture that the Government is so keen to portray to the ‘guests’.

The Government has already fixed rates for the tourists hot spots like Tsongo, Baba Mandir, Yumthang, Lachen, Lachung , Pelling and others but at present the visiting tourist are still being overcharged instead of the rates being fixed.

Sikkim Mail spoke to the president of Travel Agent Association of Sikkim (TAAS) Mr. Lukendra Rasaily on the issue who informed that the inflow of tourist this month is huge whereas the vehicles are numbered due to which the supply of vehicles for tourist is not met and the lack of vehicles in state has resulted in hiking of rates. Adding more Mr. Rasaily informed that due to hike in rates the travel agents and the visiting tourist are suffering as the tourist makes the booking in advance whereas the travel agents prepares the quotations considering the government rates but in peak seasons the fluctuation of rates hampers the tour organizers huge loss.

Mr. Rasaily further said that the overcharging is very heavy and requested the motor vehicle department to make a provision of issuing ‘special permit’ during holidays as a remedial measure to check it to some extent. Furthermore Mr. Rasaily said that the feedback form introduced by traffic police has played a vital role in at least curtailing this inflation to some extent. When asked about the “Gangtok Darshan” bus service which was to be introduced by the Government, Mr. Rasaily stated that the plan of introducing Gangtok Darshan has been dropped down by the Government after the taxi drivers association made a representation stating their objections.

When asked about the tourism prospect for Namchi, which has now been developed as a pilgrimage circuit Mr. Rasaily informed that until and unless the people of that area come forward the area cannot be promoted as it lacks accommodation facility along with availability of taxis. Where as in regards to Dzongu Mr. Rasaily informed that recently Dzongu is prospering and the inflow along with inquiry from tourist is increased to many times compared to earlier years but still the area lacks accommodation for large number of tourist and infrastructure to support the fostering of tourism.

Courtesy: Sikkim Mail



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