The tourism industry, the mainstay of Sikkim’s economy, has got back on its feet since the lifting of the COVID 19-induced lockdown late last year, officials said.
According to tourism department records, as many as 3.08 lakh domestic travellers visited the hill state between October last year and March 2022, with January being the most profitable month for various stakeholders of the sector at 98,456 visitors.
“We have seen a massive growth of the tourism industry with the arrival of large number of visitors from across the country since late last year after the lockdown was lifted by the state government, a tourist department official told PTI.
As far as foreigners’ footfall is concerned, 6,055 people visited Sikkim during the period, he said.
In 2019, the Himalayan state had recorded around 16 lakh tourist arrivals, and numbers, this year, too, are expected to rise over the course of the next few months, the officials said.
Travel agents, after a lull for almost two years, have breathed a sigh of relief.
“During the peak season, all hotels, stay homes and lodges were fully occupied. The state witnessed massive revenue generation after a while,” Norgay Lachungpa, the president of Travel Agents Association of Sikkim (TAAS), said.
Almost 75 per cent of the local population depends on the tourism industry in Sikkim, directly or indirectly, official sources stated.
The temporary shutdown of the tourism industry had spiked unemployment rate in Sikkim, which stood at 10 per cent when the COVID-19 situation was at its nadir, as per the data provided by the state’s Directorate of Economics, Statistics, Monitoring and Evaluation
Tour operators, hoteliers, traders, vendors and taxi drivers were among the worst sufferers, Sikkim Tourism Development Commission Chairman Lukendra Rasaily said.
Rasaily estimated that the sector incurred losses in the range of Rs 600 crore to Rs 700 crore at that time due to restrictions on movement.
Sensing the distress of people, who were rendered unemployed by the pandemic, the state government had provided a financial support of Rs 6,000 to all taxi drivers for livelihood, said Gangtok MLA Sonam Venchungpa, who is also the chairman of Economic Revival Committee set up by the Prem Singh Tamang government.
The committee has prepared a comprehensive report with recommendations for long-term support to the tourism sector which employs 78,800 people, to be the second-highest behind agriculture as far employment generation in Sikkim is concerned, Venchungpa explained.
The report also proposed a support package of Rs 200-250 crores in light of pending and incomplete tourism-related projects, he added.