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Sikkim Tourism Tourism Policy

Tourism Policy







03592-202575 (O) 03592-202304 (R) E-mail : Gangtok-737103 Sikkim

(Honoris Causa)
Chief Minister of Sikkim


The Sikkim Human Development Report 2014 recognised tourism as one of the potential sectors for growth and livelihood creation. With its beautiful landscape, diverse flora and fauna, culture and traditions, and warm hospitable people, Sikkim has a comparative advantage in tourism. Since the last decade of the previous century, the state has emerged as a brand in itself, a feel good destination “Where Nature Smiles”.

For Sikkim, tourism is not only about boosting the economy of the state. It is also as important for building peace between communities and nations and a tool to promote and conserve our unique cultures, and also the environment. We are aware that such a tool if wrongly used, could be costly to our natural and cultural heritage, which makes the need for a guiding policy that makes it much more important.

I congratulate the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department for drafting of the Sikkim Tourism Policy, a policy that is grounded on environmental sustainability and preservation of our cultural heritage. The policy highlights the need for capacity building to develop trained human resource in this sector, without which it will not be possible to raise the standards of the tourism industry, which is one of the important goals of the tourism policy. I sincerely hope that the value of this document is understood by the tourism stakeholders, tourism entrepreneurs, and service providers whose support and cooperation is highly critical for putting the policy into action. Our government has been working for creation of new tourism destinations with development of world class tourism infrastructures. A planned approach for development of the sector is, therefore, envisaged for the future, one that provides employment to upcoming entrepreneurs spreading the benefits to the community at large, while also safeguarding our fragile ecosystems.

I am hopeful this policy shall guide Sikkim’s tourism towards a sustainable pathway for the future.

Pawan Chamling

Tourism and Civil Aviation Department
Government of Sikkim
Paryatan Bhawan, Tadong
Gangtok, East Sikkim-737102

Hon’ble Minister


I am delighted to know that Tourism and Civil Aviation Department is bringing out the Sikkim Tourism Policy 2018. I am glad that the policy is coming out just a year after 2017 which was declared by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development and in tune with the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. This policy having incorporated the principles of sustainable development will greatly help in ensuring that the path taken by the tourism industry in Sikkim will lead to sustainability of the environment and culture of the state in the long run.

As we are all aware that Sikkim over the last two decades, has evolved as a favourite and successful tourist destination which has been attributed mainly to its picturesque landscape ranging from green fields and forests, pristine rivers and lakes to lofty snow clad mountains and its diverse and rich cultures. Sikkim offers a wide variety of destinations and circuits to attract tourists which together with the proactive approach and policies of the State Government over the last two decades has led to unprecedented growth of the tourism industry. The huge investment in infrastructure and human resources have enabled the tourism industry to emerge as the largest service industry in the private sector. The state has also made concerted efforts to promoting the huge potential of unique products such as village tourism, ecotourism and organic farming. People of Sikkim owe a huge gratitude to our visionary Chief Minister, Shri Pawan Kr. Chamling for taking Sikkim to where it stands today. Under his leadership, Sikkim was conferred the status of first fully organic farming state in the year 2016. His green initiatives have been well appreciated and recognized by all within and outside the country.

In order to reap maximum benefit from tourism and at the same time preserve the natural and cultural heritage of the state, a document prescribing certain principles, guidelines and strategies for the stakeholders as well as the implementing agencies was thought to be of utmost importance. Sikkim Tourism Policy 2018 has been formulated with this aim in the mind. The Policy document has laid great emphasis on maintaining a balance between nature and tourist related infrastructure & activities. It contains a set of guidelines for planning tourism related activities with optimum environmental care and keeping in mind the principles of conservation and sustainability. This document has also set targets and goals for the State in the field of tourism and will act as a guiding document for all the people directly or indirectly dependent on it. Efforts have been taken towards making tourism a key driving factor for economic upliftment while conserving the natural and cultural heritage of the State. I hope that this document fulfils the purpose it is formulated for and brings about the positive changes that are required for complete success of the Tourism Industry in Sikkim.

Tourism and Civil Aviation Department Government of Sikkim Paryatan Bhawan, Tadong Gangtok, East Sikkim-737102



Sikkim has now transformed itself into a world class tourist destination. Be it in agriculture, cleanliness, health and education, it has set a benchmark for other states to follow and tourism is no exception. As testimony to this, Sikkim has been receiving awards and recognition both at the National and International level. A credit largely attributed to the dynamic leadership of the Hon'ble Chief Minister, the state today has nurtured an environment highly conducive for tourism industry to foster. It is a matter of pride for all of us but this achievement also sets before us great challenges to maintain our position to be amongst the best tourist destinations in the country. Moreover the complexity of the industry, as a result of involvement of independent sectors like transport, accommodation and the fragility of our resources, demands a careful approach to maintain a balanced and sustainable path of development.

A dire need was hence felt of a document that could be a guiding force to regulate the tourism industry of Sikkim. Such a document needed to be based upon a participatory approach consolidating the collective views of all stakeholders. The “Sikkim Tourism Policy 2018” thus is an outcome of a series of brainstorming and successive meetings with the tourism stakeholders, scholars and officers from various line departments wherein the best of suggestions have been incorporated to make this document meaningful.

The Department is highly indebted to ECOSS and WWF -India for their meticulous drafting of the policy by patiently incorporating a series of changes as a result of relay meetings for finalisation of the draft. I also thank TAAS, SAATO, SHRA, SAMA, SUTO, SPA, Sikkim University, G.B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment & Sustainable Development and all other organisations for their valuable inputs. We have also referred to the National Tourism Policy 2002 and the tourism policies of the other states particularly of those who have similar topography and terrain as that of our state, thus adding to the appropriateness of this document.

I hope this document serves the purpose for which it has been designed as a guiding document towards sustained tourism growth for Sikkim.

C.P. Dhakal




Hon’ble Chief Minister

Hon’ble Minister, Tourism & Civil Aviation Department

Foreword – Secretary, Tourism & Civil Aviation Department



1.1 Global Tourism Scenario

1.2 Tourism in mountain regions

1.3 Tourism in India



3.1 State Profile/ Natural Landscape / Culture and People

3.2 Tourism Development in Sikkim

3.3 Tourism in the economy

3.4 Strengths and challenges of tourism in Sikkim

3.5 Need for a tourism policy for Sikkim

3.6 Methodology for policy development







• Establish and strengthen Institutional Structures to promote, manage and implement responsible tourism in Sikkim

• Ensure that Sikkim has the highest level of skills and capacity for quality service delivery through consistent human resource development

• Promote Standards and Certification for the Tourism Industry

• Promote sustainably managed tourism destinations, quality tourism infrastructure and safe Transport

• Promote high value and high quality tourism products

• Ensure strategic and sustained marketing and publicity

• Promote enabling environment for tourism stakeholders

• Facilitate inter-sectoral coordination and convergence




1.1 Global Tourism Scenario

Tourism is a socio-cultural and economic phenomenon, which entails the movement of people to countries or places outside of their usual environment for recreational, business, medical, or religious purposes. Tourism also encourages governments to develop and improve local infrastructure to handle tourist inflow. Several countries have transformed themselves through tourism and have created a global presence in the tourism industry. Tourist movements have spread geographically to reach practically all countries of the globe, becoming for many of them an important economic sector in terms of income generation, foreign exchange earnings and employment creation.

As reported by the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Tourism Highlights 2017 Edition, international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) grew by 3.9% in 2016 to reach a total of 1,235 million worldwide, an increase of 46 million over the previous year. It was the seventh consecutive year of above average growth in international tourism following the 2009 global economic crisis. South Asia recorded an 8% increase in international tourist arrivals in 2016, driven by India (+10%), the sub region's top destination The UNWTO estimates that approximately 1 in 10 persons in the world are employed by the tourism industry. As of 2016, the global tourism industry generated USD 7.6 trillion, constituting 10% of the global GDP. International tourist arrivals worldwide are expected to increase by 3.3% a year between 2010 and 2030 to reach 1.8 billion by 2030, according to UNWTO's long-term forecast report Tourism Towards 2030. Arrivals in emerging destinations are expected to increase at twice the rate of those in advanced economies. Market share of emerging economies are expected to grow from 45% in 2016 to reach 57% by 2030, equivalent to over 1 billion international tourist arrivals.


1.2 Tourism in mountain regions

As desired destinations for many tourists, migrants and pilgrims, tourism in the mountains offers places for rest, solitude, adventure, recreation, as well as scenic beauty. It is estimated that more than 50 million people visit mountains each year (Mountain Partnership 2008). The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that mountains attract roughly 15 to 20% of the global tourism market. Mountain tourism is generally more labour intensive than tourism in the plains, necessitating a greater number of support staff (porters, mountain guides, pack animal owners) to accompany trekking groups or mountaineering expeditions, and to carry supplies up to remote mountain tourism destinations not connected by road or air. While tourism provides considerable economic benefits for many countries, regions and communities, its rapid expansion can also be responsible for adverse environmental (and socio-cultural) impacts.

For years, mountains have attracted tourist attention especially because of the cool climate they offer. With temperatures increasing across the plains due to climate change and the extreme summer months, the mountains are a much preferred destination. Cultural identities and diversity in mountain regions, refined over generations by local habitants and the splendid natural heritage have immense value and attract tourists from all over the world.


The ever-increasing demand for tourism in mountain areas is expected to grow even further as regional tourism becomes more important. However, it presents tremendous opportunities as well as threats for the Himalayas. The investment, as well as operational and managerial decisions of tour operators, along with other tourism professionals and the wider industry can determine the level of both negative and positive impacts of tourism in the mountain environment. The fact that most tourists chose to maintain their relatively high patterns of consumption (and waste generation) when they reach their destinations is being seen as a serious problem for developing countries, since many of these regions lack the appropriate means for protecting their natural resources and local ecosystems from the pressures of mass tourism. [Frederico Neto, 2002]


1.3 Tourism in India

In the Indian context, the first public milestone in the history of tourism was the creation of the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) in 1966. This organization was established to develop tourist infrastructure and services. Subsequently, India developed its first Tourism Policy in 1982 which provided an action plan based on the development of so-called tourism circuits. This interest also resulted in the recognition of tourism as an export industry (including the implied tax exemptions) and the creation of a special public Tourism Finance Corporation (1987). Apart from identifying a few areas for 'integrated tourism development', the purpose of the plan was to achieve an overall growth and improvement of the tourism sector in India through marketing, infrastructure building and human resource development.

The importance of domestic tourism was recognized by public policy makers in the 1990s and also in the Tourism Action Plan of 1997. It was decided that domestic tourism would be a state government (policy) issue and the central government would take care of international tourists. In 2002, India came up with a new Tourism Policy, which sought to highlight tourism's contribution to national development and its role as a development tool.

A World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) report for 2014 states that for India the total contribution of tourism to the GDP is Rs. 7,642.5 billion rupees, approximately 6.7% of the GDP. Between 2002 and 2014, foreign tourist arrivals grew from 2.38 million to 7.70 million, the latter of which accounts for 0.68% of global tourist arrivals. Domestic tourist visits have increased from 270 million in 2002 to 1.14 billion in 2013. This has largely been attributed to the emergence of an urban middle class which looks to tourism for recreational purposes. In 2014, tourism in India earned Rs. 1,200,083 million or 1.58% of global tourism receipts.

The Indian tourism industry is responsible for creating 23 million direct jobs (or 5.5% of total jobs in India) and 36.6 million total jobs (or 8.7% of total jobs in India). In 2013, India demonstrated a 4% growth in tourism, or approximately 7 million international arrivals. The WTTC also states that for a period of 2014-2024 international tourist arrivals in India are expected to grow at the rate of 6.4%, whereas global tourism is expected to grow at a rate of 4.5% through 2014 and beyond.



The year 2015 was a milestone for global development as 193 member states including India adopted the “Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. Through an unprecedented consultative process involving national governments and millions of citizens across the globe, a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals and 169 associated targets were developed. This ambitious agenda sets out a global framework to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and fix climate change until 2030. The goals and targets are people-centric, transformative, universal and integrated.

“Harnessing tourism's benefits will be critical to achieving the sustainable development goals and implementing the post-2015 development agenda”

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, World Tourism Day 2014

The United Nations 70th General Assembly designated 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. In the context of the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the International Year aims to support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behavior towards a more sustainable tourism sector that contributes to the SDGs. In the context of these developments it becomes imperative that the Sikkim Tourism Policy encompasses the principles of sustainability taking into account the economic, social and environmental dimensions of development so as to directly contribute to attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Tourism has the potential to contribute, directly or indirectly, to all of the goals. In particular, it has been included as targets under Goal 8 -Inclusive and sustainable economic growth, Goal 12 - Sustainable consumption and production and Goal 14 - Sustainable use of oceans and marine resources. The targets mentioned under the goals specify devising and implementing policies to promote sustainable tourism which creates jobs, promotes local culture and products. Achieving this


agenda, however, requires a clear implementation framework, adequate financing and investment in technology, infrastructure and human resources.

2.1 Key considerations

The Sustainable Development Goals is a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity and has been developed to address the three pillars of the economic, socio-cultural and environment. Tourism impacts all three, and therefore is a key sector that can contribute to the achievement of SDGs.

:: Economic

The tourism industry is a provider of employment across the world. Poverty alleviation is one of the greatest global challenges, and sustainable tourism provides immense opportunities to address this issue. Tourism that focuses around communities with targeted pro poor initiatives has tremendous potential to bring about economic as well as social upliftment.

:: Socio-cultural

Providing authentic cultural experiences for visitors lies at the heart of sustainable tourism, which reinforces the need to conserve cultural heritage. At the same time, tourism also provides the opportunity to address gender issues through strengthening women's participation and their role in decision making. The UNWTO Code of Global Ethics for tourism calls for gender equality which provides a strong foundation for this SDG.

:: Environment

For tourism to sustain in the long run, it is imperative that tourism policies take a strong stand on safeguarding the environment. Tourism demands safe water and proper sanitation as well as safe cities and communities for its visitors. Unlike other businesses, tourism has incentive to provide all these to both attract visitors and encourage them to return.


(State Income Unit


3.1 State Profile

Sikkim, the Hidden Land for many years, came into lime light after it became the 22nd State of the country in 1975. Previously a tiny kingdom tucked away in an inaccessible corner of the Eastern Himalayas, an air of mystery and mysticism surrounds this small state. Located in the north east of India, Sikkim is a landlocked State spread across 7,096 Km2 that shares three international borders with Nepal in the west, Bhutan in the east, and Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the north and east. The State of West Bengal lies to the south of Sikkim. In 2002, it joined the North Eastern Council (NEC) to become its eighth and youngest member.

Sikkim is a wholly mountainous State, with one third of its area lying above 3,000 meters, of which a large portion is covered by snowcapped peaks, glaciers and alpine meadows. This natural steep topography is a determining factor for the state vis-a-vis land-use pattern, connectivity issue, and infrastructure development.

The climate of Sikkim is highly varied due to factors related to wide range of elevation and also partly due to diverse configuration of surrounding high mountains, valleys and water bodies. The weather ranges from sub-tropical humid climate to temperate alpine and arctic. The average temperature of the state varies from sub-zero during winter to 28 degrees centigrade during summers, while precipitation varies from 2,700 mm to 3,200 mm.

With a population of 6,10,577 in 2011, Sikkim is the least populous State of India. The population is unevenly distributed within the State's four districts, East, West, North and South. Sikkim's population is still largely rural, and over 60 per cent of the population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture and allied sectors. Sikkim's literacy rate has had a remarkable jump from less than 7 per cent in 1951 to 82 per cent in 2011. The State's per capita income for 2015-2016 is recorded as Rs. 2,59,950 (at current price) which is the highest among the northeastern states.


Natural Landscape

Sikkim has an altitudinal gradient that rises from 300 meters to the highest point of India, Mount Khangchendzonga, which stands tall at 8,586 meters and is revered as the state's guardian deity. This elevation gradient provides a wide range of ecological conditions from low tropical, temperate to sub alpine and alpine zones. A part of the Tibetan plateau falls in North Sikkim, which adds to the natural variation in the landscape. Thus, Sikkim is a biogeographically unique landscape having a wide range of ecological conditions in a small expanse of geographical area.


Tall mountain peaks that rise above 7,000 meters, glaciers that give rise to numerous wetlands which drain into streams and rivulets characterise the high-altitude areas of the state, which lie above the tree line and have an abundance of stunted vegetation. The other major peaks are Simvo, Pandim, Kabru, and Siniolchu, which adorn the Sikkim skies.

The State has a forest cover of over 47.80 per cent (FEWMD), which is the highest in the country. With one National Park and seven Wildlife Sanctuaries that cover an area of around 2,183 Km2, Sikkim's protected area network is the largest in the country. Pristine stretches of temperate forests of conifers, oaks and rhododendrons which form important water reservoirs are found at mid to high elevations of 1,800- 3,800 meters. Tropical forests stretch between 250 -1,800 meters.

The high altitude areas of the State are home to the elusive snow leopard, which preys on the blue sheep, Tibetan argali, Tibetan gazelle, Tibetan wild ass, etc. The State animal of Sikkim, the red panda, shares its temperate habitat with musk deer, Asiatic black bear, Himalayan Tahr, Goral, Serow and beautiful Pheasants such as the Blood Pheasant, Himalayan Monal and Satyr Tragopan. Apart from larger fauna, the State has a healthy diversity of birds (574 species) and butterflies of which 689 species have been recorded. Sikkim has a rich variety of flora and around 4458 flowering plants have been recorded in the State, with orchids and rhododendrons being the most highly prized.

Sikkim's two main rivers, Teesta and Rangeet, originate in the North from Teesta Khangshe glacier and West from Rathong Glacier and are fed as they flow down the valleys by numerous other streams and rivulets. Most of the high altitude wetlands that dot the landscape of the state are revered as sacred by locals. The Phamrong in West, Seven Sisters and Lingzya waterfalls in North are some of the state's beautiful scenic spots.


Culture and People

Sikkim's population comprises many ethnic, linguistic and cultural groups, each characterized by their unique culture, customs and traditions that exhibit strong bonds with nature and the environment. The three main communities are Lepchas, Bhutias and Nepalis, of which 'Nepalis' form an umbrella category which includes a large number of communities such as Limboo, Rai, Gurung, Sherpa, Mangar, Chhetri, Bahun, Newar, Tamang, Bhujel, Kami, Damai,etc.

3.2 Tourism Development in Sikkim

Growth of Tourism in Sikkim

Tracing the growth of tourism in the State prior to its merger with India, tourist inflows to Sikkim were negligible. Even after merger, growth was slow till the 1980's as large areas remained inaccessible or restricted to tourists. It was only in the last decade of the century, that tourism growth picked up considerably as more areas came under relaxation of the permit regime and Sikkim gained popularity as an upcoming tourist destination. Tourism saw a big boost between 2010-17 with tourist arrival figures equalling and surpassing the State population. Today, tourism is fast evolving as one of the most important drivers of the State economy.

Tourism centres and circuits began slowly developing from Gangtok, and gradually extended to Rabong, Pelling ,Yuksam, Lachung and Lachen. Adventure tourism in the form of trekking along the Yuksam-Dzongri- Goechala trail which had begun in the pre-merger days began to pick up. Around 1988, the State Government took a decision to allow tourists to visit Tsomgo Lake. Located at a distance of only 35 km from Gangtok, the capital town, Tsomgo became the closest accessible destination to experience snowfall for tourists coming from West Bengal. This was followed by opening up of Nathula, which gave visitors an opportunity to go right up till the Chinese border point of this ancient mountain pass. Similar relaxation of permits in West Sikkim, Zuluk in East Sikkim and Gurudongmar Lake and Yumthang Valley and Yumesamdong in North Sikkim, witnessed a surge of tourist flows to these areas. These were major milestones in Sikkim's tourism history. This was also aided by the Government's decision to allow Leave Travel Concession by Air to the North East Region in 2010 for Central Government employees.


With a flourishing tourism industry that was on the one hand more veered towards mass tourism, Sikkim also pioneered in creating an ecotourism pathway weaving in principles of strong community participation, as well as nature and cultural conservation on the other. In 2002, the South Asian Regional Conference on Ecotourism was organised in Sikkim by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim (ECOSS) with support from UNDP and the Ministry of Tourism. This was a milestone in introducing the concept of Ecotourism to Sikkim and the North East Region and in defining community-based tourism in the state. Several ecotourism sites in different parts of the State like Kewzing, Yuksam, Dzongu and Pastanga were some of the first Community-Based Tourism (CBT) sites that evolved as a result, and established themselves. The core component of these CBT initiatives was the village homestay, a new tourism product that ensured spread of tourism benefits to local communities. Since then the Government has taken several initiatives to support village tourism and ecotourism including the notification of the Sikkim Ecotourism Policy in 2011 and the Sikkim Registration of Homestay Establishment Rules 2013 and more recently, the construction of 736 homestays (Hospitality Division, Department of Tourism, GoS) under the rural tourism programme funded by the XIII Finance Commission in different villages all over Sikkim.

Tourist arrivals in Sikkim have seen unprecedented growth in the last three decades. From a mere 15,000 tourists in 1980 to a whopping 14,24,965 tourists in 2017 (domestic and foreign), (Statistical Cell, Department of Tourism & CA GoS) the growth has indeed been tremendous. Domestic tourists grew at an average annual rate of between 10 to 25% for the period 2005 to 2017. Foreign tourist growth has shown an annual growth rate average of 8% from 2005 to 2013. State-wise domestic tourist breakup shows that the top five state visitors to Sikkim are from West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. West Bengal by itself constitutes around 55% of the tourists (TECS Tourism Master Plan). Amongst foreign tourists, the most foreign tourists visiting Sikkim are from Nepal, USA, Germany, UK, France and Thailand and Australia. In terms of proportion of domestic and foreign tourists, the figures show an overwhelming average of 95% in favour of domestic tourists for the past five years.

The Department has made constant efforts for building capacities of local stakeholders in the Tourism sector through regular trainings, such as for guides (trekking, birdwatching, mountaineering, rafting,) cooks, adventure tour operators etc. The establishments of the Institute of Hotel Management in Rumtek and the Indian Himalayan Centre for Adventure and Ecotourism in Chemchey have strongly contributed to these initiatives.

Various steps for facilitating e-governance such as facilities for online Inner-Line Permits, seeking feedback from tourists and Statistical Information System etc. have been executed by the Department which has contributed to tourist facilitation.

With regard to tourism infrastructure development, Sikkim has excelled in leveraging central funds for the construction and development of tourist wayside amenities, destination and circuit development, and unique tourist attractions such as ropeways, skywalks and landmark religious monuments. Religious tourism has been augmented with the construction of several unique and gigantic religious monuments, which includes statues of Guru Padmasambhava in Samdruptse, the ChaarDhaam at Solophok, Namchi and Lord Buddha's statue at the Tathagatha Tsal in Rabong. There are several other such statues and monuments in the pipeline. Ropeways have been built in Namchi and Tsomgo Lake. A sky walk, the first of its kind, is under construction in Bhaleydhunga while a green field airport in Pakyong is soon to be made operational.

Owing to its diversity of communities, Sikkim has a number of traditional religious festivals that attract tourists, notable amongst which are the Pang Lhabsol, Drukpa Tseshe, Tendong Lho Rum Faat,


Dasain and Tyohar, Losoong, BhumChu, Saga Dawa and Sakewa. There are also a number of tourism-focused festivals held every year in different locations around the State. Among these, the Gangtok Winter Carnival which is organized to bolster tourism during the lean season is gaining fast popularity.

The adventure tourism sector which has tremendous potential was earlier confined mainly to trekking, white water rafting and mountaineering and had seen slow growth. Recently the sector has witnessed rapid expansion through new adventure activities such as mountain biking, and paragliding. A landmark event was the recent holding of the first Sikkim FAI CATII International Paragliding Accuracy Championship. In mountaineering three new peaks Frey's Peak, Lama Angden and Brumkhangse were opened for Alpine expeditions in 2005 in addition to Mount Jopuno and Tinchenkhang. Permission for the Green Lake Trek has been transferred from the Central Government to the State Government. With its immense biodiversity wealth, the State is also attracting a growing band of nature lovers, and many young local youth are aspiring to take up professional guiding in these activities particularly in birding and butterfly watching.

Accolades and Awards

In view of the above, Sikkim has always been a forerunner in tourism development. Sikkim's success in tourism has brought the State many accolades; some notable ones are presented in the table below:

Awards Period Awarded by

Best Tourism Performing State in the North Every Year from 1998 -99 to Ministry of Tourism GOI
East (National) 2002-03 and 2005-2006

Best Ecotourism Destination 2005 Hospitality India

Best State for Tourism Related Programmes 2006-07 and Ministry of Tourism GOI
(National) 2007-08

Best Adventure Tourism Destination 2008 PATWA & Safari India
National Award
Best State for Tourism Related Programmes 2007-08 Ministry of Tourism GOI
Best State/Union Territory in Tourism Related
Programmes & Development of Infrastructure 2010, 2011 Ministry of Tourism GOI

India's Most Progressive Tourism State 2010 Today’s Traveler

Best State for Comprehensive Development of 2012 Ministry of Tourism GOI
Tourism (National)

Most Innovative & Unique Tourism Project for 2012 Ministry of Tourism GOI
Siddhesvara Dham Solophok project (National)

Best State -Campaign Clean India 2012-2013 Ministry of Tourism GOI

Best State in the Country in implementation of 2012-13 Ministry of Tourism GOI
Rural Tourism Projects – 2012 (National)
Best Region to Visit in the World 2014 Lonely Planet Global
Travel Guide
Ranked 17th out of 52 Places to go in 2017 2017 New York Times

Most Responsible Tourism Project (Joint 2017 Ministry of Tourism GOI


(DESME State Income Unit).
3.3 Tourism in the State economy

There is a lack of comprehensive data to understand the contribution of the tourism sector to the State economy. Based on the figures of tourist accommodation available and the numbers of service providers, direct employment generated by this sector can be roughly estimated to be around 12,000 to 15,000 jobs at present. At the same time, the Human Development Report also notes that the industry has 61% direct workers employed from outside the State. Some of the factors contributing to this are that a majority of hotels in the State are leased out to parties outside Sikkim who prefer to source their workers from outside the State, and that a significant proportion of the transport sector also engages employees similarly. There is also a reluctance of local youth to take up jobs offered by these service providers.

In the last decade, tourism sector in Sikkim has seen a growth rate of 10-12 %. The Gross State Domestic Product of Tourism Sector in 2016-17 has been valued at Rs 1,44,735 lakhs with total contribution of tourism sector to GSDP being 7.68%

In terms of existing capacity and strength and as per figures available, there are currently 1021 hotels, (with over 16945 rooms and 34133 beds capacity), 1119 Travel Agents, 69 Restaurants, 66 Tourist Guides and 371 homestays registered with the Department. In addition there are 47 hotels registered at project level (under construction) stage. (Carrying Capacity Survey 2017 Dept of Tourism GoS) There were 646 taxis registered under the Luxury Taxi category and 6445 under local (non luxury) taxis as on 31st March 2015 (Regional Transport Authority, MV Dept. GoS). There are also a significant number of service providers who have not come within the ambit of the official statistics due to a laxity in the registration process. The indirect employment generated by the industry is however much larger and encompasses a broad section of the population ranging from construction to supplies and various services. Clearly tourism has emerged very strongly as one of the key drivers of the State economy with potential for generating long term sustainable employment.

3.4 Strengths and challenges of tourism in Sikkim


Green and clean image - Sikkim's tag of being a peaceful State has been one of its key strengths for tourism promotion, and over the years, tourism in the State has grown at a rapid pace. Sikkim conjures an image of greenery amidst tranquility. It has notably been one of the greenest States in the country with strong policies to maintain the state's green cover and has been declared the first fully Organic Farming State in India in January 2016. To add to that, Sikkim attained the first Nirmal Rajya


status in the country, and a recent addition is also that of Gangtok, the capital city being ranked as the cleanest city in India in the Cleanliness Index, 2015 conducted by Ministry of Tourism. Sikkim has an Ecotourism Policy which will pave way for shaping tourism in protected and forest areas of the State. The ban on firecrackers and agricultural waste burning are also exemplary green initiatives that the State has undertaken.

Community participation - Sikkim has also led the way in community based tourism initiatives, and has models that showcase good practices of revenue generation and sharing. The State has been a frontrunner in promotion of homestays which ensures tourism benefits directly for communities and there are various forms of homestay tourism currently in the State. The Pokhri Sanrakshan Samiti model formed under the Lake Conservation Guidelines of the Sikkim Government that puts community at the forefront for management of wetlands that are prime tourism destinations in the state has also been very successful. Tourism stakeholders are also well organised in Sikkim and there are strong private investments in this sector which also bolsters the overall state of tourism.

Diverse tourism products - Blessed with natural attractions, Sikkim has great potential for developing its tourism around its assets such as its rich biodiversity, natural attractions of mountains, rivers, snows, etc. Coupled with this, Sikkim's history and its diversity of culture brought about by the presence of different ethnic groups in the State elevates the State's tourism value to another level. The adventure sector which has tremendous potential for attracting high value tourists in the future has been little explored till date, and can become a key strength of the State's tourism.

However, in the absence of a long term vision for tourism in the state, this sector has developed in a largely unplanned manner and has veered inadvertently towards promotion of mass tourism, and is not without challenges.


Ecological impacts - Sikkim occupies only .02 per cent of the Indian subcontinent but this tiny piece of landmass that falls in the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot harbors some of the most interesting and endemic flora and fauna that occupy all corners of the State. The high altitude areas of the State that are ecologically fragile are important habitats as well as crucial in terms of water security. Many of the State's ecologically fragile areas are subjected to large inflow of tourists which has serious environmental concerns. Vehicular pollution, disturbance to wildlife, garbage accumulation are some of the current major challenges brought about by tourism which need to be addressed. Moreover, a


major challenge is bio-piracy. Instances of smuggling of seeds and other wild products by visitors in the garb of tourists have been reported in the past which lead to violation of the National Biodiversity Act.

Connectivity and communication - Owing to its location and topography, connectivity has always remained a broad challenge for the State that has grappled with bad road conditions for many years. Tourist's feedback on their experience in Sikkim place bad road conditions foremost among their grievances. Poor communication through internet and mobile connectivity is also an issue that has reflected negatively for Sikkim's tourism.

Limited employment opportunities to locals - Capacities of local people have not been adequately strengthened to address the needs of the tourism sector. On the other hand, the willingness of local youths to be involved in this sector and creation of an enabling environment for them is a challenge that needs to be addressed. While all tourism stakeholders strongly stress on the need to generate local employment from tourism, the reality is that a large part of the tourism sector is currently run by people from outside the state, be it hotels, transport sector or travel operators.

Lack of regulations/ standards - Absence of stringent regulation and standards in the tourism service sector has been detrimental for Sikkim's tourism growth. This has also led to some negative publicity for the state, which needs to be corrected. For a state like Sikkim which is sit