Capping its distinction as a prime tourist destination, sikkim has seen a signifant jump in the arrival of the visitors from across the country and the world in the past three months putting to test the infrastructure and hospitality-related facilities available in the state.
A spectacular growth of about 30 per cent was witnessed in the arrival of tourists in the last month itself at 76,252 as against the corresponding figure of 59,621 in May 2007, Tourism Secretary SBS Bhaduria told PTI.
The flow of tourists was higher by ten per cent at about 56,000 in April and 37,152 in March this year as against the corresponding figures of 51,000 and 34,000 respectively in 2007.
It is always a good news that the Himalayan state, blessed with snowcapped hilly terrain and lakes, monastaries, natural vegetation, horticulture, has become the hottest tourist destination in the country, Bhaduria said.
"We have set a target of doubling the number of tourists' inflow at about 10 lakh in next four-five years for which infrastructure development like hospitality sector and transportation facilities has become a top priority," he said.
Many hotels and related infrastructure were coming up in various parts of the state, including villages, he said, adding the transport facilities would also improve with the state having its own airport at Paykong in the 11th Five Year Plan.
The state government has started developing infrastructure in rural areas in the next two to three years as a large number of tourists wish to spend their time in and around the natural surroundings, the tourism secretary said.
The thrust of upcoming infrastructure would be centred around development of village tourism, eco tourism and adventure tourism in rural areas, he said.
Bhaduria noted that a number of places with exotic landscape across the state were yet to be put on the map of tourists' destination apparently due to restrictions imposed by the army.
The state government was in favour of tourists visiting these serene places, he said, adding the matter was taken up with the Centre and the defence authorities to permit visit by the tourists to such places in North and East districts.
Bhaduria also advocated unhindered visit by the tourists to such places for the indian citizens for which the tour operators presently require to take prior written permission.
Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling had also sought the army's cooperation in tapping the resources of tourism sector by relaxing the restrictions.
In view of the manifold increase in the tourists' inflow in Sikkim, the management of tourism-related activities also needs to be addressed, the tourism secretary said, adding that the state government has framed a guideline, Sikkim Tourism Trade Rule, to regulate all activities related to tourism.
Under the provisions of the rule, which has been approved by the cabinet recently, issues ranging from the rate of accomodation in hotels/lodges to transporation charges have been addressed, he said.
The regulation has also been hailed by tour operators.