Pelling, Sikkim: Pelling was the centre of attraction last week. The tiny hilly hamlet in the west district of Sikkim was abuzz with adventure enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and domain experts, who all came together to share a common passion — travel. The occasion was World Tourism Day, and the Sikkim government ensured that Pelling got its due share of prominence as a major tourist destination on the world map.
That Pelling was chosen instead of state capital Gangtok for the World Tourism Day celebrations further bolstered the fact the Sikkim government is giving a renewed push to the varied tourist destinations of the state.
First up on the government’s agenda was a unique awards initiative. Apart from inviting guests from different corners of the region, the World Tourism Day Celebration Committee (WTDCC) 2018 also distributed awards and letters of appreciations on various categories to promote tourism in the state.
In order to involve the masses in the tourism success story, the state government gave away awards in some unique categories such as ‘best tourist police of the year’, ‘best taxi drivers’ association’, ‘best chef of the year’, ‘best tourism entrepreneur of the year’, ‘best tourist guide of the year’, ‘aspiring youth entrepreneur of the year’ and ‘best tea shop’, among others.
Stressing on the need for encouraging ‘carbon neutral tourism’, Sikkim minister for tourism and civil aviation minister Ugen T Gyatso urged the masses to work for the overall growth of Sikkim as a major tourist hub. He also highlighted various government schemes for promotion of state tourism at national and international levels.
In his speech, PD Rai, MP, said that all the gram panchayats in the state will be linked by broadband by March next year. Advocating for reducing tourist pressure on East Sikkim district, Rai said that there should be a paradigm shift from traditional tourism and encourage home stays, etc., which will help people to root out poverty. He also stressed on the promotion of mountain biking, butterfly and bird watching points, etc.
Speaking during the technical session, Adarsh Kumar Jha, general manager – national head, hotel supply and business intelligence, Yatra, said, “We must have an interactive website similar to that of Thailand tourism authority website and must consider having an App too. We must also use effective digital platforms and measure their effect in terms of tourism arrivals. Segmentation options should also be available with specific source market campaigns. The present website does not impress me.”
Jha further said that there has been a 250% growth in search levels for Sikkim with maximum searches interested in activities to do. He also spoke on the preservation of biodiversity of the state.
Expressing serious concern for not being able to make Sikkim one of the most sought after tourist destinations, filmmaker and hotelier Ugyen Chopel said, “We need consistency and persistence in what we are saying about Sikkim and not keep changing our tag lines. All stakeholders should speak the same language to visitors to the state. We must also have a professional focus on marketing.”
In his speech, Rajesh Ghanshani, business development, STAAH Hotel Softwares Private Limited, said that it was Important to not be intimidated by technology because it was actually easy to use and not as expensive as many would think. “The hotelier should control rate parity and online business is going to grow, so we should embrace it,” he added.
Participating in the discussion, Angelo Daimari, regional director, RightClique Hospitality, said that there was a need to bridge the digital gap between the tourism stakeholders, hoteliers and homestay owners in Sikkim.
Informing that there are two types of guests, one loyal to price and one loyal to experiences, Bjorn DeNiese, director and VP, Mayfair Hotels further said that we must focus on enabling our young entrepreneurs with the right technology and guide them so that tourism can move forward with a proper growth plan. He further said that Sikkimese should avoid the leasing out their hotels.
“By doing this, we not only lease out buildings and concrete but also our culture and tradition. We must give every guest a Sikkimese experience and not that of other states when they visit us,” DeNiese added.
Chandra Maya Subba, MLA, Yangthang; Namrata Thapa, special secretary, department of tourism, Sikkim; Sanddip Roy, journalist and writer; Sonam Gyaltsen from Ecostream; Roshan Tamang, co-founder, Otuslive; and Ruchi Lahoti, area manager, Booking.com, among others, also spoke during the programme.