Most people who have the privilege of staying at home and making to-do lists of places they’d like to go to, the food they’d like to eat and people they’d like to see, especially those looking to immerse themselves in the cultures of the Northeast, can now head directly to one website and find all the information they want for the next BIG trip after the lockdown is lifted and the COVID-19 is no longer a threat.
Rewaj Chhetri, founder of NE Taxi and now, NE Holiday says that they had thought the lockdown would get over in a few weeks after it began, so the general consensus was that maybe revenue would increase soon since they hadn’t anticipated such long, drawn-out confinement. So, they changed their direction in terms of business, which isn’t drastic, seeing as they’ve only added more engaging services and not started an entirely new venture.
So what is the new NE adventure? Previously, under the NE umbrella, there was only a transport service, where one could either book a whole vehicle or share seats for travels, but now they have a separate website for self-drive, experience and homestays to further their list of services.
“It can be a big opportunity, once the lockdown is over and Sikkim is safe. I think homestays will open up first. Tourism will take the lead, even before agriculture”. But it’s safe to say that Rewaj has thoroughly researched into the benefits of rural tourism and hasn’t forgotten the importance of agriculture to the state.
“If you see, economy-wise, a lot of people like me who come from rural areas, migrate from the village to cities to earn. If more migration like that occurs, farmlands will be barren. If homestays work well, there will be less migration and in return it will boost agriculture, leading to self-sufficiency (in the state).”
The quick process of creating and rolling out the NE Holiday website was due to NE’s efficient team; work was divided and started about a week or 10 days into the lockdown. They began with a blog describing the 199 tribes of the Northeast, which has grown to include informative content about the states and travelling in general.
One can now book two and four-wheelers for self-drives in the destinations that are provided and stay in local homestays, where travellers can live the Sikkimese way of life and be enamoured by the views that many of the locations have to offer of alpine/subalpine forests, along with the state’s other exquisite flora and fauna,
Increasingly, people have begun looking for more authentic travel experiences and leaning towards rural tourism, to get away from city life’s insomnia. The entire idea of NE Holiday is that it would circle around homestays. That is where NE Experience comes in.
To put it simply, NE Experience is a unique event for solo/group travellers! Homestay owners will primarily host these experiences, but if a traveller is at a village, a traditional singer or someone who can bring the local culture directly to them, can take the person around and earn some income. It is the perfect way to encourage local employment and activity while giving travellers value for money.
Cultural experiences, village walks or photo walks/birdwatching – whatever the rural life can offer, the locals can curate activities around it. There is a process of learning as well as general enjoyment to derive from these events.
According to Goldman Sachs, India is at the brink of experiencing its biggest recession, which in layman’s terms means that people aren’t spending enough due to the lockdown and that has tanked the market as a whole. But they have also predicted that there will be a definite rebound once the lockdown period is over and economic activities can resume without hindrance.
For Sikkim, the biggest feather in its cap so far is being considered the safest state in India (fingers crossed) and since the state depends mostly on agriculture and tourism, bringing these two worlds together to boost the economy is not only helpful to Sikkim but to India as a whole. Rural tourism, if controlled properly without depleting the environment or people’s resources, can be Sikkim’s saviour in a post-COVID19 world.
On May 18th, Lok Nath Sharma, Minister-cum-Area MLA of Gyalshing- Bermiok constituency chaired the ‘Input Distribution cum Training Program’ organized by the ICAR-National Organic Farming Research Institute at the Village Administrative Center in West Sikkim.
The training program was to familiarize farmers with modern techniques and equipment and implement those in their farms, to multiply produce and increase revenue. The state government has directed policies which favour agricultural workers; the incentives provided for the dairy farmers, the organic producers and others to encourage them to do better, said the Minister. Adding that the state greatly appreciates the contributions of the rural, agricultural community.
Will more businesses shift their focus into larger creative business plans that also work in line with their current product/service? He says that they should. “I think most businesses should shift focus or pivot for the long term cause situations are changing. But I’m not sure everyone will – but those who do will make it to the other end. Those who stay idle, hoping that someday things will open and get back to normal, they are doomed.”
“Soon, there is going to be a behavioural change. People will be more comfortable staying in a cabin than in the city”, restates Rewaj.