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Sikkim nod for tourists from Oct 10

Bengal state tourism promotes the Dooars, homestays
The decision, sources said, was taken to kick-start the tourism-dependent state economy

Rajeev Ravidas, Bireswar Banerjee   |   Siliguri   |   Published 20.09.20, 12:01 AM

The P.S. Tamang (Golay) government in the Himalayan state of Sikkim has decided to reopen the state for tourists, both domestic and foreign, from October 10 after a gap of seven months.

The decision, sources said, was taken to kick-start the tourism-dependent state economy.  

A notification, issued by the state home department on Saturday stated: “It has been decided to allow free interstate movement of people without any requirement of registration with effect from 1st of October 2020, and also permit hotels, home stays and other tourism-related services to operate from 10th October 2020.”

The decision came on Saturday, the day Bengal tourism department announced a campaign to promote the Dooars region.

Since March, those associated with travel trade are struggling for survival amid the pandemic and lockdown. 

In Sikkim, the decision to open up tourism was made after chief minister Tamang met various stakeholders in Gangtok on Friday and acknowledged that the state’s economy had taken a beating because of the Covid-dictated tourist ban.

Sikkim had barred foreign tourists from March 5 and domestic ones from March 17, the first Indian state to do so in the wake of the pandemic.

The tourism open-up notification also stated that the state tourism department had to issue a detailed standard operating procedure (SOP) in consultation with the health department for hotels, homestays and other tourism-related services to run from October 10 and onwards. “Inner Line Permits for foreign tourists having valid visas shall be issued from 10th October, 2020…The bookings for hotels and homestays complying with the SOP shall start from 27th September, 2020,” it added.

Roshan Raj Shrestha, president, Sikkim Hotel and Restaurant Association, said: “Since this (Covid pandemic) is something we have to live with for a very long time, it is better we start taking pragmatic steps to open up so that people do not suffer further losses.”

In Siliguri, Bengal tourism minister Gautam Deb held a meeting with senior administrative officials of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts and travel trade representatives in north Bengal. 

At the meeting, it was decided that the state would simplify land registration norms for homestay owners. “The chief minister (Mamata Banerjee) has specially emphasised on the promotion of homestay tourism and we have developed a policy for it. The district administrations concerned have been asked to simplify land registration for homestay owners. The state has already announced incentives for homestays and is paying a one-time financial assistance of Rs 1.5 lakh,” said Deb.

Deb said the state was mulling a proposal to draft a policy for small-scale tour operators. He also elaborated his department’s plan to host “Visit Dooars -2021”, a promotional campaign to highlight the Dooars.

“Help desks would be set up in different locations. Sanitisation points for vehicles would be opened at the entry points of tourist spots,” Deb added.

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