Are the COVD-19 restrictions putting a brake on your travel plans? Is the avid traveller in you itching to go out and explore the wild? Do not worry. You can now finally embark on your journey during these difficult times now. Although, it will be a little different this time.
Say hello to the beautiful state of Sikkim this October 2020!
The travel industry is badly hit during the COVID-19 outbreak over the months now, and Sikkim, being one of the most famous tourist destinations in the country had to face the worst consequences. Over 15,000 people in the travel industry lost their jobs and around 1,528 travel agencies had to shut down their operations. Finally, after a hiatus of almost six months due to the pandemic, the state is now planning to open its door to the tourists from October, also ensuring at the same time that the highest standards of safety and hygiene measures are put in place.
The state tourism department on Friday held a meeting with all the stakeholders to discuss a strategy for reopening the sector. They came up with a draft proposal termed ‘Reopening of State Tourism’. The guidelines have been prepared keeping in mind to identify and mitigate risks for the service providers and for ensuring necessary safety and hygiene practices in interaction with travellers.
So, now that travel is finally resuming in the state, what’s in store for you and the tour operators?
Guidelines that tourists need to abide:
- The first phase of reopening will be considered only for domestic tourists.
- All tourists travelling to Sikkim should provide an e-pass with the arrival and departure dates mentioned in it.
- All tourists travel in Sikkim to be permitted only for pre-booked/package tours (arrival to departure -Sikkim).
- Tourists will also need to provide a valid COVID-19 negative certificate conducted within three days before arrival.
- Only two entry points Rangpo and Melli will be permitted for tourist entries in the 1st phase. (to be decided by the government).
- All tourists have to register their details in the Web portal of the Department before arriving at the entry check posts. The concerned travel agent or operator may help the tourists with the registration.
- The State government, based on the prevailing circumstances, will decide on the number of accommodation units to be authorized or permitted for operations in different phases.
Guidelines that tour operators need to abide:
- All tourist transport, including pick up and drop, will be allowed only through authorized local travel agents and operators, which means that other state vehicles won’t be allowed in the state.
- The first phase reopening to be provisioned for a maximum capacity of 2500 rooms or 5000 guests per day in the whole of the State, which is left to be decided by the government.
- The room allocation to the guest shall be made in line with the social distancing norms, preferably one-room apart (alternative rooms).
- The guest will have the option of booking accommodation in the state either by themselves or through OTAs or local travel agents. However, all transport and ground handling services are to be booked through permitted authorized local travel agents only.
- No travel agency without the authorization of the State Tourism Department will be permitted to operate. Any arrival of tourists without the authorized travel agent’s or tour operator’s booking slip or service voucher will not be permitted.
- The authorized travel agents will have to provide the certified copy of their guests’ details, tour itinerary and accommodation details to the nearest Tourism Information Centre or Department at least 24 hours before the arrival of the guests.
- The travel agents or tour operators shall be permitted to engage only tourist vehicles for all tourist transports and sightseeing during the first phase for better tracking and monitoring of the visiting tourist.
- Travel Agents should use the same vehicle for the whole tour. They should avoid using other cars in between the tours unless it’s an emergency.
- The travel agents or tour operators processing authorization shall, in no case, engage proxy operators to conduct their tours.
However, just to let you know, the proposals are yet to be discussed with the state government. It is only a draft that has been prepared by the department in consultation with the stakeholders and is yet to be taken up with the government to finalize it.
COVID Precautions to be taken while travelling:
- First and foremost, wash your hands regularly. This is undoubtedly the most important thing that you can do to minimize your chances of contracting the Coronavirus disease. Make sure that it’s not just a quick rinse with soap and water. You need to wash your hands for at least twenty to thirty seconds whenever you get a chance, especially after accessing public spaces or if you have taken a mode of public transport.
- Always keep a hand sanitizer gel with you. In case you don’t get access to soap and water.
- Stock up your inventory. Buy disposable tissues, alcohol-based sanitizers, and gloves.
- Wear a mask and make sure to change it every 10 hours while travelling. Carry along enough masks to help yourself and others in your surroundings.
- Carry ample drinking water with you and re-fill at hygienic places only (do not forget to wear those gloves!).
- Do not forget to carry handy detergent sachets and bottles of disinfectants, since it is of utmost importance to stay clean and discourage the breeding of germs. Keep washable sandals and slippers with you wherever you can, because Covid-19 thrives on surfaces and regular cleaning is the only cure.
- Go digital! Digital payments are the key to minimizing physical contact between buyers and sellers. Download a few apps with quick keyboard taps, transfer the necessary amount of money from your bank account and voila, you can now buy souvenirs while maintaining minimal contact with the seller.
- Crowds are the worst place to be during the coronavirus outbreak. If you’re travelling to a place with many Coronavirus cases, stay away from any place with a lot of people.
- If you develop the symptoms of the COVID-19, wear a mask so that you don’t further spread the virus and infect other people. Isolate yourself and seek medical help immediately.
We know these are difficult times especially for the travellers. However, if we all take necessary precautions and work together then we can ensure the safety of our fellow travellers and help flatten the curve.
We have resumed out group trips and have some amazing destinations for you. Please check out website for the details!