Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Homestays tucked away in a Sikkim nook

sikkim, May 10: It’s one of the few places waiting to be discovered and that is why Darap is idyllic.

The rustic look belies the perfect homestay complete with the daily comforts of life that the residents of the picturesque village near Pelling in Sikkim have put up.

The initiative to develop the village as a tourist destination by using local resources was taken up by Sushil Tamang, the president of the Darap Eco Development Committee, in 2005.

Sushil organised the families and helped develop homestays in the village houses.

He also identified potential destinations for visitors and created an infrastructure to develop the tourist spots.

“We are operating more than 20 homestays here and the house owners are registered with us. Each family in the village in Darap-Nambu gram panchayat unit — the population is around 4,000 — are somehow or other reaping the benefit of our initiative,” said Sushil.

He said the activities were slow in 2005 put picked up gradually when more people joined in to develop the concept. “But today we have come with several offbeat and new attractions and have managed to pull more than 5,000 visitors including a few hundred foreigners, so far,” he said.

He added that each family has two-three single or double bed rooms to accommodate the tourists.

“Our USP is the activities which tourists enjoy a lot. They can pick and choose from an array of products ranging from trekking to picnic to meditation and swimming. We also have arrangements for mountain biking and learning the local language and cooking,” he said.

The development of the place, around 155km from Siliguri, as a destination for tourists willing to pay more than the usual hotels in Pelling has changed the lifestyle of the local people, said Karma Wangchuk Lama who has a homestay.

“Unlike yesteryears we have a regular flow of earning now. We had never thought that our houses, with little renovations done, can help us generate additional incomes for our families,” he said.

The initiative has also been appreciated by the Sikkim government with chief minister Pawan Chamling handing over the award for the “best tourism development committee” to Sushil in Gangtok last year.

“We have also been informed by our local MLA that the Union ministry of tourism will give us Rs 70 lakh for the development of infrastructure and capacity building of service providers within this year,” Sushil said.

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