Tourism development in Sikkim has passed through many phases.At Government level the development of tourist facilities was taken up in a planned manner.The Government took several significant steps. A State Policy on tourism was announced in 1992. Later in 2000,The Tourism formulated a comprehensive plan for achieving a sustainable growth in tourism. In 2001, The Ecotourism and Conservation Society of Sikkim (ECOSS) is a registered NGO and operates out of Gangtok, ECOSS believes in the conservation of biodiversity, local culture, promotion of sustainable livelihoods through community mobilisation and empowerment. It conceptualised and hosted the South Asian Regional Conference on Ecotourism (SARCE 2002) at Gangtok with the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and the Ministry of Tourism which essentially brought ecotourism into the development profile of the North Eastern States and put Sikkim on the ecotourism map of India. ECOSS has successfully executed the Sikkim Himalayan Home stay Project funded by UNESCO under their Cultural & Ecotourism in Mountain Regions of Central and South Asia programme from 2004-2007 for promotion of community home stays in Yuksom, Dzongu, Kewzing and Pastanga through capacity building of ecotourism service providers.
ECOSS has been a key player in The Gangtok Water Supply and Sanitation Scheme Project funded by the Australian Government International Development Assistance (AUSAID) Programme under their Community Small Grants Scheme. It has been actively involved in the improvement of water supply, sanitation and solid waste management in Greater Gangtok area covering 55 various schemes and benefiting over 26,000 people.ECOSS has executed the Rural Tourism Cluster Project funded by NABARD for the promotion of community based home stays and ecotourism activities in the villages of Rey Mindu in East Sikkim and Lingee Payong in South Sikkim. ECOSS continues to conduct numerous awareness and capacity building trainings in the ecotourism sector both within Sikkim and in the North Eastern states.
ECOSS has conducted a pilot project for the revival of the ancient weaving practice of giant nettle fiber cloth amongst the Lepcha community of Dzongu. It has also provided consultancy services on ecotourism for the ADB funded SASEC Tourism Infrastructure Project in Sikkim In 2011 ECOSS has been instrumental in creating the Vision Document for Quality Elementary Education for the Human Resource Development Department, GoS. ECOSS is also currently engaged in the JICA funded Sikkim Biodiversity and Forest Management Project covering the North District
Definition related to Sikkim Ecotourism
1. Ecotourism: A form of tourism that involves travelling to natural areas with the specific objectives of learning, admiring and enjoying nature and its wild plants and animals as well as local people’s cultural aspects including religious monuments, while conserving the natural and social environment, and improving the welfare of the local people.
2. Ecotourism Activities: Activities coordinated by a qualified nature and cultural interpreter designed to entertain and educate clients. Examples of above mentioned activities are;- a. activities in mountains such as trekking, bird and wildlife watching, hiking, photography, mountaineering etc; b. activities in rivers and lakes such as angling, rafting, kayaking, photography etc; c. participating in cultural and traditional events such as agro-tourism, handicraft making, fairs and festivals and Himalayan folkways.
3. Sustainable Ecotourism Development: Development of ecotourism in the State of Sikkim, which meets the needs and aspirations of the current generation without compromising the ability to meet the needs of future generations.
4. Ecotourism Assets: Natural and cultural features that attract visitors, such as landscapes, endemic or rare flora and fauna, local agricultural products, local culture including festivals, local folktales, history, historical monuments and heritage sites.
5. Ecotourism Products: A combination of activities and services which are sold and managed through qualified ecotour operators including local communities or individuals.
6. Ecotourism Services: Services including transportation, local cuisine, camping, home stay, guiding and interpretation. These services should cause minimum damage to the natural and cultural environment and promote a better understanding of the natural and cultural aspects of an area .
7. Interpretation: Communication that helps visitors to understand and appreciate the community resources. Interpretation includes facts, but also reveals the reason of the importance of those facts so that visitors are able to understand why the resources should matter to the individual visitors. Interpreter is a person who provides interpretation in natural and cultural areas, interpretation center, parks and etc.
Sikkim ecotourism council
The Sikkim Ecotourism Council will be an autonomous council as outlined in the organizational diagram. The Sikkim Ecotourism Council will have an executing arm which is the Ecotourism Directorate (ED) working under the Forest, Environment and Wildlife Management Department (FEWMD). The Council will have a local village level operational system which incorporates various Community-Based Organizations (CBO) working in tandem with Panchayat, Non Governmental Organisation, Tourism Development Committee (TDC), Self-help Groups (SHG) and other local people’s representative groups.
Members of Sikkim Ecotourism Council are as follows.
Chief Patron : Chief Minister
Two Patrons : Minister of Forest and Minister of Tourism, Chairman : Chief Secretary Member Secretary : PCCF-cum-Secretary, Forest Department (FEWMD)
Member : Chief Wildlife Warden
Member : Secretary, Tourism Department
Member : Secretary, Rural Management & Development Department Member : Secretary, Animal Husbandry, Livestock, Fisheries and Veterinary Services Department Member : Secretary, Home Department
Member : Secretary, Sports & Youth affairs
Member : Director, Ecotourism Directorate
Member : Person of National Ecotourism Expertise Member : National Level NGO
Members : Four Local Level NGO and CBO
Member : Travel Agent Association of Sikkim (TAAS)
Role of ecotourism council
a. bring all key stakeholders on a common platform of understanding of ecotourism activities .
b. coordinate all key stakeholders to work on the ecotourism activities carried and reflect their opinion to the activities;
c. establish guidelines for ecotourism, and revise them in consultation with the key stakeholders including NGO, CBO, local communities, tour operators, tour agents and relevant government authorities from time to time as per the requirements; d. ensure that the new guidelines are consistent with the Code of Conduct for responsible tourism prepared by the Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India and adopted by Dept of Tourism and Civil Aviation (Govt. of Sikkim);
e. monitor the activities of ecotourism to ensure minimum negative impacts on the biodiversity and ecosystems of Sikkim. Emphasis should be on the carrying capacity of the Protected Areas (PAs) in Sikkim including Khangchendzonga National Park (KNP);
f. evaluate the negative impacts brought by ecotourism activities and existing rules and regulations, and review and revise the rules in consultation with the stakeholders which have direct or indirect influence to the ecotourism activities as and when necessary;
g. review and finalise a draft ecotourism action plan and a long-term development plan which are prepared by ED;
h. monitor the trainings and capacity building carried out by ED; i. monitor and influence the activities of private entities which violate the main principles of Sikkim Ecotourism, through relevant organizations;
j. request tour operators, guides and home stay owners to provide information on Sikkim’s ecotourism products and ecotourism services, since this information is needed for planning and monitoring of ecotourism activities;
Role of ecotourism Directorate of Sikkim
Role of ecotourism council is as follows
(A) Planning and Development:
i. ensure the implementation and execution of the ecotourism guidelines; ii. coordinate with the Home Department, and other related key government organizations in border sensitive ecotourism sites to ensure the smooth operation of ecotourism activities; iii. implement the strategies described in Sikkim Ecotourism Policy; iv. organize seminars, workshops and international conferences among concerned government officials, NGO, CBO, and other stakeholders, from time to time so as to consider the emerging needs/suggestions etc from all sections of society.
i. monitor the revenue generation and allocation of funds for the development of ecotourism; ii. develop a plough back mechanism with an autonomous status for funds generated for sustainability of ecotourism related activities.
(C) Operation and Management:
i. work in close collaboration with NGO and state level of CBO to implement the ecotourism activities; ii. collaborate with NGO, CBO, TDC, SHG and other local people’s representative groups to implement the ecotourism activities at the village level; iii. set standards for the carrying capacity in the Protected Areas and other Reserved Areas to prevent damage to the biodiversity and ecosystems; iv. publish newsletters, bulletins, pamphlets, status reports and other information and disseminate important government notifications and rules; v. ensure visitors, tour operators, tour agencies and guides to follow the prescribed guidelines.
(D) Monitoring, Evaluation and Research:
i. monitor the environmental impacts which are caused by tourism activities and plan/take necessary remedial measures to mitigate the same; ii. enlist ecotourism operators in the state and monitor their activities; iii. facilitate scientific assessment of relatively unexplored ecotourism destinations for their potential and promotion; iv. develop participatory tourism monitoring plans in collaboration with NGO, CBO, SHG, TDC, Panchayat, EDC, PSS and JFMC; v. monitor the training and capacity building programmes that are conducted by various other agencies and provide support and cooperation; Strategies for Sikkim tourism development
1 Strategies for planning, zoning and modelling for the Ecotourism sites and other general tourism sites are a. FEWMD and Tourism Department work together to identify the tourism zones and general tourism zones b. prior to establishment of the tourism zoning, plan consultations with the local NGO, CBO, TDC, SHG and other local people’s representative groups as well as key government organizations such as Rural Management and Development Department on the issue of the ecotourism zoning at each area; c. establish zonings for tourism development sites, which will be called tourism zone hereafter, and general tourism development zone, and differentiate the two zones in Sikkim;
d. select villages from the tourism zone and establish a model from each district and focus on efforts on allocating finance, manpower for capacity building and facilities and equipments, and disseminate the successful cases to the other ecotourism zone; e. make some variation of the tourism zone which has specific objectives such as, tourism zones for trekking, tourism zones for bird watching, tourism zones for flower photography; f. regulate the design and appearance of new ecotourism infrastructures such as, accommodations, view points, footpaths, and restaurants that blend with the landscape; etc
Strategies for Training and Capacity Building
Strategies for training and capacity building are
a. train and build the capacity of local communities including home stay owners, youth and women’s groups who wish to engage on ecotourism activities. The topic of the training and capacity building are specific themes such as, environmental education, home stay management, waste management, computing, finance, ecotour program designing, interpretation, risk management, cooking local cuisine, guides for trekking, bird watching, fauna and flora photography, angling, rafting, religious monuments and languages; b. prepare and provide training materials including training manuals, text books and training courses; c. provide technical capacity building for tour operators, CBO, NGO, frontline staff of FEWMD as well as various stakeholders including STDC, EDC, JFMC, PSS and Panchayat; d. identify village level CBO’s engaging on ecotourism activities, and provide necessary capacity building to them; e. identify and review the existing regulations and bye-laws and other regal issues related village level ecotourism activities. Support CBO to clarify those issues prior to commence the ecotourism activities;
f. plan certificate courses for nature interpreters and ecotour guides for trekking, bird watching, fauna and flora photography and other activities; g. identify low season income generation activities to complement ecotourism such as handicraft souvenirs, food and fruit processing, production, repairing and maintenance of adventure equipments; h. provide training and capacity building to FEWMD staff as well as Tourism Department staff within the state to understand the clear meaning of ecotourism as an activity supported and monitored by FEWMD to be driven by CBO. Strategies for Benefiting the Economically Disadvantaged People Strategies for Benefiting the Economically Disadvantaged People are a. facilitate self employment opportunities for the economically disadvantaged people in ecotourism enterprises;
b. encourage supply of goods and services to tourism enterprises by the economically disadvantaged people; c. facilitate direct sales of local goods and services to visitors by the economically disadvantaged people (informal economy); d. encourage establishment and running of tourism enterprises by the economically disadvantaged people – e.g. micro, small and medium sized enterprises, or community based enterprises (formal economy); e. set up systems of voluntary support by tourism enterprises and tourists to the economically disadvantaged people.
Strategies for Safety
Strategies for safety are;
Ensure to have insurance set by all the tour operators, guides, tour agents whose clients may have accidents and injuries during their trip, and guides to carry first aid kit when they are in the field with their clients;
Plan training and issuing certificates system for safety including risk management. The training will focus on methods of risk management avoid problems, medication to save clients and quick rescue operation to all the tour operators, guides, tour agents whose clients may have accidents and injuries caused by the engagement of tourism activities;
Plan a system of notifying landslides high risk areas as well as other dangerous places for visitors by ED to the tour operators, tour agents, guides and drivers of vehicles through the related associations on a regular basis;
Develop a series of hazardous maps of ecotourism sites (places, characteristics of hazardous, etc.) in Sikkim in sustainable manner and update it regularly;
Plan a quick response team for an event of any kinds of accidents related ecotourism activities;
Plan a system of emergency call for medical doctors an event of visitors’ sickness or injuries.
Strategies for Certification
Strategies for certification are;
Plan a committee which includes STDC, TAAS, SAATO, TDC, NGO and CBO to work on certification related to the ecotourism activities (e.g. home stay, tour operators, environmental friendly lodges) ;
The certification process has to be transparent based on specific guidelines which are monitored through social auditing; ED, STDC, TAAS, SAATO, TDC, NGO and CBO work together to identify necessary certification items related to ecotourism activities such as renewable energy, ecotour guide. They will plan further courses for the identified items.
Strategies for Finance
Strategies for finance are;
Plan a mechanism of financial system through banks at reasonable interest rates targeting the local people who wish to engage in tourism activities;
Inform the financial system to the people in Sikkim including the local villagers;