Sikkim is known for its breathtaking landscapes and natural green forest, which has always attracted travellers and tourists worldwide. However, the Covid Pandemic stunned the tourism of the state, leaving tourism stakeholders in worry. Sikkim, reeled under a serious crisis as the pandemic crippled its tourism industry, the mainstay of its economy. According to Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation (STDC) chairman Lukendra Rasaily, “The tourism sector suffered losses to the tune of Rs 600 cr.”
The surge in covid cases in the state could not be tamed despite the state government sealing the borders, banning tourists and suspending educational activities. India-China trade at the Nathula border pass was also suspended in the wake of the pandemic. However, The State Government’s approach to deal with the Covid – 19 pandemic situations did seriously damage the tourism industry in the State. Restrictions on the entry of tourists robbed the State of valuable revenue and derail the growth rate.
However, in October, the state government lifted its restriction on flow of travellers and tourists in the state, which brought joy among the local tourism stakeholders and tourism entrepreneurs of the state.
Speaking to Sikkim chronicle Bikash Gadaily, proprietor Ease Tours and Travels said,“ Due to COVID-19 Pandemic, tourism stakeholders had undergone losses in terms of business. During the restrictions, it was hard for us to operate the agency. Tourism was only the source of income, and it became hard for us to sustain our livelihoods with restrictions on flow of tourist being strictly implemented in the state for 12-18 months”
“When the State government lifted restrictions on flow of tourists again in the state, I guess the tourism industry in our state is under revival period”
Gadaily on ensuring Covid protocols said,“ As tourists are entering the state, we ensure all the baggages are well sanitized with facemasks being an essential one”
Kapil Meena Additional Secretary, Department of Tourism said,“ Due to the outbreak of Novel Corona virus, Sikkim has suffered a lot in tourism sector. COVID-19 outbreak has significantly impacted the tourism industry in the state of Sikkim with strict lockdown. Tourists entry was either totally prohibited or was allowed in a graded manner during the last 18 months.
“The first unlocking of tourism industry was implemented on October 10, 2020 and detailed standard operating procedures was formulated by state government in consultation with all stakeholders beforehand to ensure that minimum COVID-19 cases due to entry of tourists in the state. The unlocking was quite successful in phases, as almost no cases were reported from among the visiting Tourists during this entire period.” he added
Furthermore, Kapil Meena on revival of tourism sector in Sikkim said, “Tourism industry has been adversely impacted as almost one third of state’s population is directly or indirectly dependent on tourism. However, the recovery after the first wave and subsequently after the second wave has been quite encouraging. The industry is feeling much relief now as number of tourists is swelling up significantly. Occupancy in hotels is improving a lot now after the major restrictions on entry have been lifted and free interstate movement has been allowed since October 5, 2021.”
The Sikkim government barred the entry of tourists after the outbreak of Coronavirus disease, and when the second wave struck in the month of July 2021 the government issued a notification which stated that only“ fully vaccinated tourists could visit the state.” Further, the notification allowed hotels and guest houses to operate on50 per cent capacity.
Following to which on October 5, 2021 the Sikkim government eased interstate travel restrictions which allowed tourists and travellers to enter Sikkim leading to revival of tourism industry in the state once again.
By Sheetal Kharka. The author is a freelance writer. She can be contacted at [email protected]