Tourism and Sustainable Development

Speech by Mr. P. K. Dong, Executive Director,

Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation, India

Tourism sector, including both Government and private sectors, is quite conscious of the importance of protection of environment. They know their bread and butter comes from the natural and cultural resources lying in the environment. If the natural and cultural environment gets degraded, then people in tourism business will be the first ones to fill the hit of adverse effects. Hence, for their selfish interest, if not for any altruism, tourism sector is deeply concerned with protection of natural and cultural environment.

The fact that wilderness areas attract tourists and concomitantly bring economic benefits to local people as well as people of tourism industry provides them with both motivation and financial resources required for preservation of environment. Tourism revenue may lead to improvement of infrastructure in terms of roads, water, power, telecom etc.

However these positive impacts may get wiped out by the more visible negative impacts of tourism like destruction of ecological balance of an area due to tourist movement, litter and deforestation and soil erosion due to haphazard and unregulated construction activities.

Some Potential Environmental Hazards from Tourism

  • Disruption of Ecological Balance of an Area.
  • Deforestation and Soil Erosion.
  • Litter
  • Impact on Built Environment.
  • Impact on Cultural Environment.

Environment Impact in Urban Areas

Let us look at the three premier attraction, Tsomgo Lake, Yuksom-Dzongri Trek Trail and Yumthang. All three are located at high altitude, that is, in fragile environment.

Hence Tourism Department has realized it is important to develop these areas fro tourists with utmost care and sensitivity, so that the serene beauty of these places is preserved intact for tourists come to these places. The Department, in consultation with the Ecotourism cell of Forest Department, intents to develop such places with due process of taking into account Land use plans, Building guidelines, Zoning of areas, Determining carrying capacity and Environmental impact assessment.


Tourism competes along with other sectors for the resources on which it depends. It can not therefore seen as a self content set of activities but as a part of a wider set, which need to be plant and managed as an area develops.

Tourism planners as well as bio-diversity conservation planners may use both legal and education instruments to ensure conservation of not only wilderness areas but also urban environments.

At presents physical plans are made for development of tourism facilities and infrastructure but management plans are not prepared or followed. As a result hotels are constructed but waste management is neglected. Public toilets are constructed but maintenance of hygienic standards is not followed. Trekkers hut are created but management plans for fuel, litter and waste are not prepared and / or followed. Tourists attractions are created but proper signboards for tourists giving them information on the place and environment and “Dos and Don’ts” are not out up. Beautiful cottages are made but horticulture development around the cottages and attractions is not considered part of development plans.

Hence, I would say, preparation and follow up of not only physical and environmental plans but also of management plans, in and around places of tourist attractions, should be made compulsory.

Issues in Hand

However, the main issues in hand are,

How to develop and promote tourism, particularly ecotourism in the ecological sensitive areas like the Eastern Himalayas?

How to manage balance between the need for socio-economic development of local people through tourism, and the need for conservation of the bio-diversity?

As already stated above, the Government and tourism industry are fully committed to the issue of conservation of bio-diversity in Sikkim.

However in the meantime, it should also be appreciated that the Government is also responsible to create atmosphere and facilities for economic development of the local people.

The world, especially the underdeveloped world has realized that their can be no successful sustainable development unless the people living on this earth are benefited by the fruits of such developments.

In fact one of the main objectives of sustainable development should be to remove poverty of the local people.

Socio-Economic Impact of Tourism in Sikkim

Tourism is an activity that converts the natural and cultural resources of Sikkim into dynamic economic activities and marketable assets by bringing tourist to Sikkim.

It is estimated that 200,000 tourists those who visit Sikkim at present spend about Rs.20 Crores per year in Sikkim. This is a real money brought from outside by tourists and spent in Sikkim on accommodation, food, transport, entertainment, purchase of souvenirs and so on.

The above expenditure of tourists has generated direct employment for about 7,000 persons in the hotels, transports and travel agency sector but the indirect economic benefits in the form of multiplier effects are much more. For example, the commercial activities among the suppliers of vegetables, eggs meat etc. to hotels, restaurants during the tourist session film studios thrives on tourists.

It is often apprehended that with the influx of tourists may create an adverse impact on the local culture. The local people may be influenced by the food habits and rest of the visitors and may starts adopting them.

However, in the case of Sikkim, our experience has been quite positive. The demand of tourist to see the culture of local people has in fact helped revival of interest of local people in their culture. Sikkim Tourism has been organizing Tourism Festival since last three years where local traditional dance and music are displayed through the main thoroughfare of the Gangtok town. Various ethnic groups of Sikkim participate in these cultural carnivals with great enthusiasm and gusto. Thus tourism has created revival of interest and pride among local people on their culture.

Sikkim Tourism is perhaps one of the first States in India to prepare a Master Plan for Tourism. All tourism development plans in Sikkim are being taken up as per recommendation in the Master Plan where adequate measures about the protection of environment have been insisted on. Hence, the strategy of the Government is to develop tourism in Sikkim in a moderate pace, so that the impact on the carrying capacity and environment is constantly monitored.

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