Tourism in the present time is considered to be one of the potential growth sectors and vehicle for development. It is an activity which is based on principally the utilization of natural resources. Presence of scenic beauty, congenial climate, varieties of flora and fauna, and a hospitable host population are the basic prerequisites for a place to become tourist destination. Sikkim is blessed with exquisite natural beauty, salubrious climate, rich biodiversity and a friendly host population. In addition to this the state’s unique cultural traits adds to its attraction. In fact the altitudinal variation and lack of enough plain land which has acted as a hurdle in the path of industrial development has contributed positively by increasing the state’s topographical variety and its natural beauty. However, the resource base on which tourism development depends in the state is extremely fragile and vulnerable. The state’s sustained tourist appeal depends on the preservation of its natural environment. This calls for a form of tourism which wisely uses and conserves resources in order to maintain their long-term viability. This can be made possible by striking a balance between the need for socio-economic development of local people and the need for conservation of the rich bio-diversity through the practice of alternative forms of tourism like eco-tourism, village tourism, and agro-tourism.
Sikkim’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage has been attracting large number of tourists to the state. As a result tourism is one of the fastest growing industries and has been identified by the government as one of the thrust areas. The number of tourists visiting Sikkim has shown an increasing trend since 1980. Though during the early years, which was the formative stage, there were slight fluctuations in the tourist flow, from nineties onwards till recent years there has been a steady increase
The natural environment is often referred to as the key components of tourism. The environmental resources, based on which development of tourism takes place sometimes are destroyed and degraded due to unregulated tourism activity. Such negative impacts from tourism occur when the level of visitor use exceeds the environment’s capacity to cope with this use within the acceptable limits of change. But tourism is just not an exploiter of the natural environment; it is also a saviour of the environment from potentially more damaging forms of development such as logging and mining activity. Tourism has often been used as a catalyst to regenerate and improve the quality of environment. Simultaneously tourism has another role in terms of employment and income generation. Therefore that form of tourism which focuses on environmentally sound practices and generation of widespread economic benefits is most desirable. This can be obtained through comprehensive sustainable tourism which is “holistic in approach, simultaneously taking into account environmental, socio-cultural and economic impacts within a global and inter-sectoral context that includes consideration of intergenerational equity as well as indirect and induced impacts over the long term . Sustainability in tourism development can be achieved through the practices of eco-tourism and village/rural tourism.
Sikkim is an ideal destination for practising ecotourism and village tourism. The scenic beauty, congenial climate rich biodiversity, has made tourism a key sector in the field of future development. Strategically also tourism development is important as due to topographical constraints development of heavy and medium is not viable. Hence tourism in Sikkim has been identified as the best alternative. The state tourism has elaborately designed a long-term sustainable development plan to conserve the ecological fragility of the region. In Sikkim therefore the government has accorded high priority for development and promotion of tourism based on the tenets of ecotourism and village tourism. In fact all efforts are made to prove that sustainable tourism can economically benefit the host population and at same time be a saviour of the environment.