The tourism sector in Sikkim was impacted this week after many bookings were cancelled due to heavy snowfall in the state’s eastern and northern regions, which left many visitors stranded. However, with the clearing of the roads and the resumption of pass issuance, tourist footfall to these regions’ hotspots is gradually increasing, a tourism official said.
Popular tourist destinations such as Tsomgo Lake, Nathula Pass, and Baba Mandir in East Sikkim, and Gurudongmar Lake and Yumthang Valley in the north, were cut off from the state capital for the better part of a week.
After heavy snowfall disrupted road communication, at least 900 tourists were stranded along the J N Road, which connects Gangtok with Tsomgo Lake and Nathula. They were rescued the next morning after spending the night in an army camp. Similarly, on Saturday, the BRO (Border Roads Organization) rescued 175 tourists from various parts of North and East Sikkim and returned them safely to Gangtok.
According to a tourism official, the issuance of passes to tourists for visiting Tsomgo Lake and Nathula Pass was temporarily halted due to weather conditions but has since resumed. “We had stopped issuing passes for three days because there were so many tourists stranded. However, the roads are now open, and we have resumed issuing passes. This time of year, we can expect snowfall. But this time was different,” he stated.
Due to heavy snowfall last week, many tourists had to cancel their trips to Tsomgo Lake and Nathula. That impacted the industry. It will be further impacted if such a snowfall occurs again, according to the official. “We also advise tourists not to travel to the higher reaches for the time being because there is always the possibility of roads becoming blocked due to snowfall,” he said, adding that the destinations are currently open.
“So far, no new reports of tourists becoming stranded have been received. However, if this occurs, the machinery is ready,” he says. According to an Indian Army official in North Sikkim, the region is still receiving snowfall, but the army is prepared if tourists become stranded again.