Conclave on Innovation and Progress of Ecotourism in Sikkim
ENVIS Report, February 16, 2017: As an important step in considering the significance of 2017 being the UN Year of Sustainable Tourism, Sikkim Ecotourism Directorate under the JICA assisted Sikkim Biodiversity Conservation and Forest Management Project being implemented by the State Forests, Environment and Wildlife Management Department successfully organized a Conclave on Innovation and Progress of Ecotourism in Sikkim on the 16th of February, 2017 at Sidkeong Tulku Forest Conference Hall, Deorali, Gangtok. The conclave was organized as a follow up of the familiarization tour undertaken by both local and visiting tour operators to four Ecotourism Zones, namely, Lingdok – Pangthang, Okharey, Kitam and East Pendam.
Attended by over hundred participants representing local tourism stakeholders, tour operators from Sikkim and a team of twelve tour operators from other States such as Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat and West Sikkim, the conclave gave an excellent opportunity to the participants to come under one roof with an idea to converge, deliberate, share and learn about different facets of tourism and ecotourism in Sikkim’s context and imbibe values of sustainable tourism principles and practices.
The inaugural session of this day long programme was graced by the State Tourism Minister Shri Ugen T. Gyatso Bhutia as the chief guest. Formal opening of the conclave was conveyed by the State Forest Minister Shri T. W. Lepcha in presence of Secretary for Tourism and Civil Aviation Department Shri C. Zangpo, Chief Conservator of Forests Shri C. S. Rao, Director for Ecotourism Shri J. B. Subba and other officers from the host department.
Addressing the inaugural session, Tourism Minister Ugen T.Gyatso Bhutia said that sustainable tourism is the primary focus of all other developments in the State. He said that amidst numerous infrastructure developments in Sikkim, focus is being given to boost the rural economy through promotion of sustainable ecotourism practices. “The popularity gained by Sikkim needs to be utilized for fostering tourism industry”, he said. The minister also urged the tour operators who visited the four ecotourism zones to promote the areas nationally and globally so that Sikkim Ecotourism Zones get place in the national and international tourism maps.
Forest Minister T. W. Lepcha, while inaugurating the conclave, mentioned the initiatives taken by the State government for development of ecotourism. He said Sikkim is one of the global biodiversity hotspots and continues to maintain its forest cover along with several developmental activities. He stated that the JICA assisted Sikkim Biodiversity Conservation and Forest Management project would not only boom the tourism industry in the State but will also create revenue source for the people. On organizing the familiarization tour and conclave, the minister said the idea was to know the product from the tour operators’ point of view, seek suggestions for areas of further development and others. He thanked the visiting tour operators for their suggestions which he said would benefit in the growth, marketing of the product nationally and globally.
While welcoming the participants during the inaugural session, CCF Shri C. S Rao highlighted various eco-friendly policies and environment achievements of the State Government. Tourism Secretary Shri C. Zangpo asserted the prime role of all tourism stakeholders for sustainable growth of the State. The President of Travel Agent Association of Sikkim (TAAS) Shri Palzor Lachungpa also presented keynote address on the role of TAAS in promoting tourism industry of the State through sustainable practices.
Technical session themed “Revisiting Sikkim’s Ecotourism Development: Key Stakeholders and their Renewed Roles” was later actively coordinated with key presentations and discussions as under;
- Ecotourism Development in Sikkim: Role of Forest, Environment & Wildlife Management Department, Government of Sikkim – Shri. N. Jaswant, IFS, DFO (Ecotourism), FEWMD
- Significance of Ecotourism for Sikkim’s Tourism Industry - Representative from Sikkim Tourism Industry
- Community based Ecotourism and Role of NGOs: Past experience and Way Forward – Shri. R. P. Guring, Ecotourism Society of Sikkim (ECOSS)
- Overview of Tourism Sector of Sikkim - Representative from Sikkim Tourism & Civil Aviation Department
- Khangchendzonga National Park as UNESCO World Heritage Site (First mixed category site from India) – Ms. Sonam Norden Bhutia, ACF (KNP)
Special Plenary session was also organized under distinguished panelists as under:
- Shri Chandrashekhar Jaiswal, DGM, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation
- Shri Anirudh Chaoji, Executive Committee Member, Aventure Tour Operators Association of India
- Shri. Madhu Menon, ANALA Outdoors, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
During the valedictory session few cultural performances were also organized for the visiting tour operators.