Photo: touristplacespl.blogspot.com

Pramod Giri, HT, 08 July, SILIGURI: Sikkim, which has been feeling the pinch of unrestricted tourism for some time, has decided to follow in Bhutan’s footsteps and regulate this industry. A tourism ‘carrying capacity study’, that is, a survey will be conducted from Saturday onwards to assess the adequacy of the existing tourism infrastructure in Sikkim and the amenities being provided to tourists. Bhutan, the new destination for Indian tourists, has already put in place a system to regulate the tourism industry in the kingdom.
Meanwhile, the authorities in Darjeeling have not made any efforts to promote sustainable tourism in the Queen of Hills — the most-sought after traditional tourism destination in the region.
The tourism and civil aviation department of Sikkim has taken this step following a quantum surge in the number of foreign and domestic tourists arriving in Sikkim.
A senior tourism official in Sikkim said, “The objective behind the study is to inspect the adequacy of the tourism infrastructure and the facilities that are available in the state. With the growth in the tourism sector, it is pertinent that the department takes initiative to obtain minute details of the facilities and amenities provided to the tourists’ visiting Sikkim,” said the official.
He also said that the move is to put in place a sustainable state tourism policy and talks and deliberations have been going on in this regard for the last 13 years. This is necessary for the tourism sector to function to its optimum capacity and in a smooth manner without causing an adverse impact on the state’s tranquility, the official added.
Succumbing to the demand of tour and travel operators, the Bhutan government had recently liberalised its tourism policy. But the rush of Indian tourists became a matter of concern. The Bhutan government, which believes in the principle of gross national happiness, had long been encouraging high value, low volume tourism — that is, less visitors but those who will spend more. Later, Bhutan wanted to be rest assured that there should be no long term adverse impact of the unrestricted arrival of tourists.
On certain days, 1,500 to 2,000 Indian tourists reach Bhutan every day, which in itself is a record figure. “Bhutan has a small population of just over seven lakh and we were not prepared to handle the pressure of so many tourists,” said Tashi Dorjee, a tour operator in Bhutan. The arrival of a large number of tourists forced the government to introspect, he said.