Stakeholders of the tourism industry in north Bengal have threatened to launch a movement against alleged highhandedness of the Sikkim government over the entry of hundreds of youths who serve in different hotels in the Himalayan state.
According to them, the hotel employees who are from Bengal and other states, are not allowed to enter Sikkim unless they are fully vaccinated.
“This is complete biasness. On one hand, tourists are allowed even if they have received a single dose and are carrying RTPCR negative reports. On the other hand, these employees are being stopped at the entry points in Rangpo and Melli even if they carry such reports. Otherwise, they will have to stay in a paid quarantine in the state for seven days. This is something unacceptable,” said Samrat Sanyal, general secretary, Himalayan Hospitality and Tourism Development Network .
According to sources, there are around 1,800 hotels in Sikkim, 70 per cent of which are being run on lease by companies based in Bengal. So far as the employees are concerned, around half of the staff at these hotels are from Sikkim while the rest are from Bengal and some neighbouring states. Because of absence of staff, half of the hotels are yet to reopen in the state.
Avijit Sengupta, a Siliguri-based hotelier who runs a number of hotels in Sikkim, said tourists had already started pouring into the region.
“These days, we are receiving bookings for accommodations and in the coming weeks, the inflow of tourists will only increase. If we cannot post our staff at the hotels, it would be tough to provide services to our guests once they check in. The Sikkim government should immediately give a second thought to the restriction that they have imposed over the entry of employees,” he said.
Another hotelier pointed out that considering the different categories of hotels in Sikkim, there are at least five to seven employees who are from other states and who need to join their jobs immediately.
“Altogether, there are around 7,000 people who serve in different places, ranging from reception to kitchen to housekeeping to restaurant. Their absence can pose a problem for any hotel if the number of guests goes up,” he said.
The HHTDN, sources said, has already communicated with the chief minister and the chief secretary of the Himalayan state.
“If there is no change in the situation by September 27, we will be forced to launch a movement. The Sikkim government should understand that proper services should be ensured to each guest checking into a hotel or else, it sends a bad message for the industry,” said Sanyal.
Officials of the state tourism department of Sikkim could not be contacted. Another senior state official, who spoke on anonymity, said they are aware of the issue.
“We hope the matter will be resolved in due course. The concerns of the tourism stakeholders might be genuine but the government will have to make a decision keeping in mind that the pandemic is not yet over,” he said.
The HHTDN will organise different programmes throughout this month to celebrate the World Tourism Day. On September 27, that is, on WTD, they will hold an award function to felicitate different people and facilities associated with the industry.
They have also taken a joint initiative with the Union tourism ministry to provide hospitality training to 90 drivers in Siliguri, Darjeeling and Kalimpong from September 19 to September 21. A similar training will be hosted for the forest guards at Chalsa in Jalpaiguri district.
The organisation has also lined up cleanliness drives in the stations of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, along the embankments of Murti river, a popular destination in Dooars and at Pedong in Kalimpong, said sources.