The tourism of Sikkim, a Himalayan state of India, is in a critical stage after the earthquake of last September 18.
Tourists from other Indian states have been canceling their bookings to visit Sikkim in the peak season of tourism, the months of October and November.
At a visit to Sikkim three days before the earthquake of 6.9 magnitude hit the state, tourists from Himachal Pradesh were enjoying the scenic beauty of Mahatma Gandhi Road of the capital, Gangtok.
Telak Ray Sharma from Himachal Pradesh said, "I came alone this time, but I will visit Sikkim again with my family."
But Sharma's dream does not seem likely to be fulfilled in a short period of time. The places of North and East Sikkim he visited collapsed under the earthquake. The infrastructure has been destroyed. Even the secretariat of the state government collapsed. The roads to the tourism spots are still blocked.
Just before the earthquake, chief minister of Sikkim Pawan Kumar Chamling was addressing and persuading the locals of Ribdi, West Sikkim, to get involved in domestic tourism as the state government had given emphasis to it.
But Sikkim being the worst effected, anxious queries are being made by the tourists who had already planned their holidays in this region. The effect of the quake has haunted the Himalayan travelers and it is expected to cast a long shadow on the tourism sector this season.
The marketing manager of Hotel Delamere in Gangtok, Vikram Thapa said, "We are not fully grown up in tourism sector and the earthquake has hampered the growth severely. This year tourism would be in its worst condition," he added.
"The hotels are lying vacant. Forty percent bookings of the tourists have already been cancelled," a travel agent from Pelling, West Sikkim, Bhim Bhandari said. But they hope the situation of the tourism sector will be restored soon.
The death toll in the state crossed 6 dozen and sources say that a number of people workers have been missing from various sites.
The Prime Minister of India, Man Mohan Singh visited Sikkim after the quake and announced the relief fund of a thousand crore rupees. Singh gave top priority to restoration of the road network in Sikkim. He directed the Border Roads Organization (BRO) to clear the strategic North Sikkim highway leading to Chungthang-the centre point of the earthquake by mid October. The road also links to Lachen and Lachung, the major tourism destinations.
The state government had been giving emphasis in building the infrastructure to reach the tourism spots and the people were trying to get involved themselves in the tourism sector.