K J Alphons, Union minister for tourism inaugurated the first Swadesh Darshan project in Sikkim recently. The project was for the development of the North East Circuit: Rangpo– Rorathang- Aritar- Phadamchen- Nathang-Sherathang- Tsongmo- Gangtok-Phodong- Mangan- Lachung-Yumthang- Lachen- Thangu-Gurudongmer- Mangan- Gangtok-Tuminlingee- Singtam. The project was inaugurated in the presence of Ugen T Gyatso, minister of tourism and civil aviation, Government of Sikkim in Gangtok.
The project implemented under Swadesh Darshan Scheme of MoT, Government of India was sanctioned by the ministry in June 2015 for `98.05 crore and is the first ever project in Sikkim under the scheme. Under this project, the ministry has developed tourism infrastructure facilities like tourist information centre, meditation centre, organic eco tourism centre, log huts, zip line, flower exhibition centre, walkways, souvenir shops, cafeteria, rain shelters, wayside amenity, last mile connectivity, parking, public toilets, etc.
Inaugurating the project, Alphons appreciated the efforts taken by the state in completing the project and added that Gangtok is incredibly clean that it can match with any city in the world in terms of its level of cleanliness and hospitality. Highlighting the achievements of India in the tourism sector last year, the minister said that the country has been ranked third by WTTC’s Travel and Tourism Power and Performance Report for absolute growth in tourism for the year 2017 and also India’s growth at 14 per cent in terms of foreign tourist arrivals in 2017 while world tourism grew at seven per cent. The minister also commented upon the initiatives of the state government in promoting homestays in Sikkim which provide jobs to citizens of all segments and also appreciated the state government’s steps for Sustainable Tourism and Dispersing destinations policy. The minister added that the MoT has sanctioned another project in Sikkim under Swadesh Darshan scheme, the work of which is 75 per cent complete. The ongoing Swadesh Darshan project in Sikkim that the ministry has sanctioned is development of North East Circuit: Singtam– Maka- Temi-Bermoik Tokel- Phongia- Namchi –Jorthang- Okharey- Sombaria-Daramdin- Jorethang- Melli” in September 2016 for `95.32 crore. The work under the project is in progress.
The development of tourism in North Eastern Region being prime area of focus for the MoT, several initiatives for growth of domestic and international tourism in the region has been taken up by the ministry. One of the many challenges the region faces in development of tourism is the absence of quality infrastructure, services and awareness about the array of tourism products region has to offer.
The ministry is carrying out number of activities to handle the issues on above fronts. For development of tourism infrastructure, the ministry has sanctioned 16 projects for `1349.04 crore covering all North Eastern States under its schemes of Swadesh Darshan and PRASHAD.
Swadesh Darshan scheme is one of the flagship schemes of the MoT for development of thematic circuits in the country in a planned and prioritised manner. Under this scheme the Government is focussing on development of quality infrastructure in the country with objective of providing better experience and facilities to the visitors on one hand and on other hand fostering the economic growth. The scheme was launched in 2014 -15 and as on date the ministry has sanctioned 77 projects worth projects for `6121.69 crore to 30 states and UTs. 30 projects/major components of these projects are expected to be completed this year. 11 projects have been inaugurated as on date under the scheme.
For promotion of the region, the ministry also carries out special promotions in domestic and international markets highlighting the region’s diversity, tourism products and its rich culture. The MoT has also set up Hotel Management and Food Craft Institutes for creating skilled manpower in tourism and hospitality sector in the region.
The foreign tourist arrivals in the region has shown an upward trend over the years. The region received a total of 1.69 lakh foreign tourist visits during 2017 as against 1.45 lakh in 2016 registering a growth of 16.7 per cent over 2016. Domestic tourist visits reached 95.47 lakh in the year 2017 against 77.71 lakh, registering an impressive double digit growth of 22.8 per cent over 2016. The increased number of tourists in turn has created better employment opportunities for the local population in the region.