GANGTOK, Aug 3 - Sikkim is one of the most picturesque Himalayan state of India with its economy dependent on tourism.
With phasewise reopening of the state after a long period of lockdown, many businesses today reopened. Tourism-related business establishments, however, remain deserted.
For Jigmi Dorjee, the owner of a travel agency in Gangtok, this year has been the worst for his family. With no work and depleted savings to fall back on, they are �scraping� through the lockdown.
�We have to repay a lot of loans and education of our children in a good private school is also a priority, but considering the present scenario, we have to make some drastic compromises with our lifestyle,� he said.
Like him, there are many who are going through a difficult phase. House owners who have given their properties to hotels and resorts have also not received any rent since the past few months.
PB Rai, property owner of a house in Namchi says, �We have leased out our property since many years. We can understand that there is no business, but how long can we go on like this,� he questioned. This in particular is giving many stakeholders a reason to switch over to some other business.
For young entrepreneur Leela Sharma, the hospitality industry was her first dream, �I wanted to open a resort. I had rented a property in East Sikkim, but due to the ongoing pandemic, I had to switch plans. Unfortunately, the couple of lakhs which I had paid as advance will not be returned,� she said, disappointed with the situation that surrounds her.
She is not the only one going through losses. Small eatery joints who are dependent on daily income are the worst hit.
Priyanka Tamang runs a restaurant in Gangtok, �If tourists are not there, then how will we survive, we have to think how to open our business as usual, keeping in mind the COVID-19 protocol one has to follow these days,� she observed, adding that most of her staff are in a pitiable condition when compared to her, and have therefore returned to their native villages.
Others directly employed by the tourism industry like tourist guides and drivers are uncertain what the future holds for them. Tenzing Sherpa, who hails from West Sikkim, is a tourist guide and an avid trekker. His love for the mountains made him join this profession. He, however, is now seriously thinking of changing his profession.
�How long can we pray for this to stop. Somewhere we have to do something for our living. We are dependent on one tourist season for the entire family�s financial care for the remaining portion of the year�.
As the government starts to unlock in Sikkim, the depleting fortunes of the tourism industry due to the ongoing pandemic remains a concern on how to bring back tourists to the Himalayan state where most people are directly or indirectly dependent on it.