Creating Links Between Tour Operators And Local Communities Offering Tourism Services

This subcomponent is important for providing connections between producers and suppliers in the supply chain. It will also play an important role in the product development and improvement strategy. Product, Sales, and Advertisement Manager will be in charge of the activities described in this subcomponent. Some selected villages, around 10 villages, will be the focus of the project over its ten-year period. It is important to build successful initiatives when the demand is still relatively weak rather than develop ecotourism in too many or all the villages. Once the number of ecotourists increase in Sikkim, these pilot initiatives will be models to replicate in the future.

These villages will be the focus of the Project?s village tourism development initiative. The selected villages will be 
  • linked up with tour operators and 
  • set up with an environmental collection and clean-up system. 

In addition, these villages, through their respective JFMC, EDC, or PSS, will be 
  • provided with training on ecotourism service provision; 
  • given training on handicraft design,marketing, and sales; and 
  • set up with a microfinancing scheme to help service providers develop and improve their products. 

The criteria for selecting the target villages will be the following. In order to select the target villages in a objective and fair manner, the selection criteria should be elaborated during the execution of the Project.
  • There are good tourism attractions within easy reach of the village.
  • The village is accessible.
  • Some accommodation is already developed in the village, eg, homestays and guest houses as well as some local cultural attractions to show tourists, eg, cultural shows, handicraft centers.
  • There is willingness to develop tourism using sound business principles, ie, work with the supply chain.
  • Stakeholders are enthusiastic and serious about developing ecotourism.
  • There are clear community benefit-sharing opportunities to avoid all services being provided by just a few of the wealthier or more prominent stakeholders.
  • The local administration supports the development of ecotourism and provides an enabling environment.
  • The village and its surroundings should have sufficient households to make the investment viable. 

Target villages will be selected by the EMC for prioritization over the project period based on the criteria described above. The Product, Sales and Advertisement Section of the EMC will survey the villages and evaluate each against the selection criteria in collaboration with the District Facilitation Unit (DFU). It will then propose the candidate villages to the board and the PMU for their approval. As the Project?s primary objective is biodiversity conservation, these villages must be willing to participate in joint forest management and to establish a JFMC, EDC, or PSS.

Organization of Study Tour for Tour Operators to Visit Villages
Tour operators will be invited to Sikkim to visit the selected villages. The objectives of these visits will be for tour operators to assess the facilities and the opportunities available in Sikkim and to provide the service providers with advice on how to improve their products to increase their chances of being included in tour operator packages. It is suggested that ten tour operators from Sikkim and the neighbouring areas and 10 tour operators from main tourist generating areas of India be selected. Tour operators from Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, and Bangalore are recommended to be invited to Sikkim. Some of the tour operators are recommended to be international tour operators since most of the ecotourism visitors to Sikkim are foreigners at this stage. Workshops will be organized in each of the villages visited. The same tour operators will be invited back to the villages one year later to see the improvements. They should visit the villages that they did not visit during the first trip. If some of the operators drop out of the second visit, they can be replaced with other operators.