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Tourism Fostering Economic Growth In Sikkim

Bedu Singh Panth, Minister of Tourism, in a conversation with Education Post’s Tanay Kumar.

Education Post08 December 2023 05:33

Tourism Fostering Economic Growth In Sikkim

Bedu Singh Panth, Minister of Tourism, Sikkim feels extremely positively about the job potential in the tourism sector for India’s youth. In a conversation with Education Post’s Tanay Kumar, he opens up about an ambitious green hydrogen project in collaboration with a South Korean research institute and its potential contribution to Sikkim’s tourism industry.

To start on a light note, could you share an incident from your travels that proved to be an eyeopener for you?

There is a famous saying by Lao Tzu: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” It is always a fun to travel whenever one gets an opportunity. Be it a pilgrimage trip or holidaying in the beaches, getting suntanned or an adventure trip trekking in the icy cold hills, we all must undertake such journeys to experience it in our lifetime.

Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru once said, “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures. We can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” So, there are countless beautiful places to see and explore, all kinds of people with different cultures, customs and traditions of their own in this beautiful world.

My first travel experience to Singapore and Japan will always be remembered for it being an eye opener for me. I had never seen such planned, neat and clean cities. People in Japan are so disciplined and organized. There, the public transport system is marvellous. I could hardly see police officers or law enforcers. Everyone is so disciplined and stands in a queue without a word and respects each other

I have come across many Japanese travelers and they always follow their system wherever they travel. They never litter, disturb, or disrespect the places they visit. Looking at them, I realized and strongly feel and appeal to all the travelers to be a responsible traveler like the Japanese. As Chief Seattle said once, “Take only memories and leave only footprints.”

Chief Minister of Sikkim Shri Prem Singh Tamang has laid the foundation stone of the Maitreya Buddha-cum-cultural complex in Lachen and Guru Rinpochee statue and cultural complex in Lachung, both in North Sikkim. How could these projects help students who are studying travel and tourism management?

Along with the entire people of North Sikkim, I am grateful to the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Sikkim Shri Prem Singh Tamang for conceptualizing and laying the foundation stone of the Maitreya Buddha-cum-cultural complex in Lachen and Guru Rinpochee statue and cultural complex in Lachung. Both projects will undoubtedly boost tourism in both the places and attract more tourist footfalls from across the globe. Further, with the completion of such projects and increased tourist footfalls, it will help the students of tourism management to professionally establish or open various tourism service units such as hotels, homestays, transport services or travel agencies to cater to the needs and demands of the tourists.

Please tell us about initiatives that Sikkim’s Tourism Ministry has taken for students studying tourism and hospitality courses.

The Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation helps students from various universities in gaining much-needed industry exposure by means of offering internship programs wherein the students are exposed to various cells and sections of the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department thereby giving them opportunity to develop both hard and soft skills and obtain valuable practical work experience.

Further, apart from invitations to attend various tourism-related training/workshops, the department also recognizes the academic achievements of some of the best-performing students in different colleges/universities in the state by felicitating them during the World Tourism Day celebrations every year to encourage them to excel and adopt professionalism form the very beginning.

The Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation also has our own college known as the Institute of Hotel Management (IHM) located at Sajong, Rumtek, which is about 15 kms from the capital city of Gangtok. This IHM College was established in 1990 and offers various pre- and post-graduation courses in tourism and hospitality sectors.

In July, Sikkim Tourism introduced a free refresher cum crash course and certification to trekking guide, tour guide and trekking cook, which is a very welcoming move. Please tell us the motive behind starting these courses and the reason for making it only a week long.

The Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation in collaboration with the Indian Himalayan Institute of Adventure and Eco-Tourism, Chemchey, South Sikkim, organized a free weeklong refresher course for tour guides, trekking guides and trekking cooks to mainly keep them updated with the latest tourism trends. Further, it is meant to promote adventure tourism in the state and to enhance the standard of adventure tourism services. The training, which was conducted in three batches, had participation of over 350 students from across the state. Similar trainings with longer tenure encompassing comprehensive course syllabus along with field training shall also be conducted by the department in the near future.

Recently, the Government of Sikkim collaborated with the Korea Research Institute of Human Settlement (KRIHS) to develop the greater Gangtok area as a pilot green hydrogen smart city. Please tell us about the genesis of this plan and why authorities selected KRIHS for it?

Sikkim is a pro-environment state with a number of green initiatives adopted by the state government with a vision to develop Sikkim as a green state with sustainable development model. Sikkim is also the only certified organic state in the country. In continuance to these sustainable efforts of the state government, development of green hydrogen fuel is the next advancement step taken by the state government to develop the state into purely green energy state.

In order to achieve this goal, the Government of Sikkim has partnered with Korea Research Institute for Human Settlement (KRIHS) in South Korea as a technical partner along with Construction Industry Development Council (CIDC), NITI Aayog. Initiatives are being taken to explore the possibilities of setting up pilot green hydrogen in Sikkim for production, transmission and utilization and also to facilitate capacity building of local entrepreneurs.

It has been observed that KRIHS is committed in enhancing the quality of life and well-being of their citizens through spatial planning and framing policies by way of researches and studies on the efficient use, development and conservation of territorial resources. Under the able guidance and leadership of our Chief Minister, our state is also committed to enhancing the quality of life and well-being of its citizens.

Sikkim being a land locked state surrounded by three international borders with a very fragile economy needs to work towards sustainable development. Hence, we need to focus on balanced territorial development and conservation of our territory. Lately, we have been observing that there has been a major population shift in the urban areas in search of jobs and opportunities which has resulted in over-crowding of cities and towns thus leading to congestion, pollution and traffic problems etc. we are planning to work towards designing housing and urban policies to address the population shift to the suburbs from the villages.

Many tourism and hospitality colleges in India offer tourism and travel management programs. What are the necessary academic practices that they should definitely teach students of tourism management?

The tourism industry is one of the biggest contributors to the GDP and is one of the biggest employment generators both in public and private sectors. Tourism is a broad subject and it encompasses diverse sectors. Since, tourism is totally based on the principle of hospitality, I feel apart from the regular academic syllabus offered by the respective universities, special focus should also be given to enhance the interpersonal skills of the students. The course should also include syllabus on personality development, grooming, team building, time management skills, planning and decision making skills which will definitely help the students when they eventually enter the industry as a professional.

Please tell us about some other destinations in the state that Sikkim’s Tourism Ministry is deciding to develop.

Tourism in Sikkim has emerged as the pivotal economic activity of and for the Sikkimese people. The proactive vision of Sikkim’s government through the Tourism and Civil Aviation Department is to tap the enormous tourism potential to ensure larger socio-economic objectives and bring about an all-round development through a well-executed tourism policy with emphasis on inclusive growth through people’s participation and convergence.

The development of tourism has not only fostered the economic growth of the urban areas such as Gangtok, but also brought about over all development of the entire state with infusion of high happiness and contentment in the society. Promotion of village tourism, homestay, cultural tourism, adventure tourism, eco-tourism, wellness tourism, bird watching and flora-tourism have given a fillip to the tourism related trade all over the state.

In fact, apart from Gangtok, there are numerous destinations all over the state visited by thousands of tourists every year. With many activities and achievements, the department now has more plans to develop tourism in the state on newer sectors like, MICE tourism, wellness tourism, eco-tourism, luxury accommodation, caravan/campervan tourism, wedding destinations, high-altitude alpine tent city, which will be spread all over the state. The approach, however, shall be in a conscious and controlled manner, keeping in consideration the environmental and social impacts to our small and beloved state.

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