Unmasking Tourism’s Roadblocks

sikkim tourism

Most urban dwellers often yearn for a break from their busy lives and seek solace and rejuvenation in hill stations. However, many individuals, including my colleagues working in private firms, have expressed concerns about the expensive package tours offered in Indian hill stations. They believe travelling to Asian countries provides cheaper options with better package tour deals. This growing preference for international destinations might impact tourism in Indian hill stations.

In the quest for travel destinations, it is evident that rational individuals, including myself, prioritize attractive deals. This inclination towards value and affordability is not unique to me but is shared by many others in their pursuit of enjoyable travel experiences. Such consideration of attractive deals is a rational approach allowing travellers to maximise their trips’ value and enjoyment.

In Sikkim, prior to the pandemic and after the subsequent lifting of lockdown measures, the tourism industry experienced a significant influx of travellers. The region witnessed a considerable surge in visitors seeking to explore Sikkim’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.

However, in 2023, I have personally observed a decline in the number of tourists visiting Sikkim compared to previous years. The bustling atmosphere and the enthusiastic crowds that characterized the pre-pandemic period and the years 2021 to 2022 are noticeably absent.

This dip in traveller numbers raises concerns and indicates a shift in travel patterns and a potential change in tourists’ choices. The reasons behind this decline may vary, including factors such as economic conditions post-pandemic and the availability of alternative destinations at cheaper rates.

Conversations with residents and accommodation operators in Sikkim on June 1, 2023, revealed that numerous travel agencies operating outside the state are charging exorbitant fees for package tours.

This issue must be addressed promptly to prevent adverse effects on the tourism industry. It is imperative to establish reliable booking platforms that provide transparent information regarding rates and comprehensive details. If the prices are unreasonably high, potential tourists may be deterred from booking their vacation trips, resulting in a decline in tourist influx. Consequently, this downturn would adversely affect businesses that rely on tourism, such as local suppliers of eggs, milk, cheese, meat, and vegetables, souvenir shops, tour activity operators, restaurants, events, transportation services, photography businesses, and more.

Furthermore, word-of-mouth plays a significant role in shaping travel decisions. Satisfied travellers will likely recommend destinations like Sikkim to their friends or family based on their positive experiences. Conversely, dissatisfied tourists may leave unfavourable reviews about the place and its services, potentially deterring others from visiting.

Additionally, there have been complaints from tourists who claim to have made hotel bookings online through travel agencies operating outside the state. However, upon arriving at their destinations, they discover no such bookings exist. Circulating information about fraudulent travel agencies on various booking platforms is essential, warning travellers to avoid booking through these deceitful entities.

Moreover, in May 2023, a hotel manager shared instances where some tourists attempted to check into accommodation units claiming to have made prior bookings. Upon verification, it was revealed that these individuals possessed fake identification documents, and no legitimate bookings had been made.

Efforts should be made to provide affordable package tour options, ensure transparent and reliable booking platforms, and curb fraudulent practices.

Pema Choden Bhutia is a Research Scholar at Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai. Her research interests include tourism, ecotourism, environmental valuation techniques and tourist preferences.

Email: [email protected]


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