By Reema Lokesh on April 14, 2015
Shova Lama, deputy director (East/ I&P) and former deputy director, Sikkim Tourism, New Delhi, is ready to take on her new role with increased enthusiasm. As the nodal officer of the fourth International Travel Mart -North East, she tells Reema Lokesh that she is geared up to welcome delegates to Pelling- West Sikkim in October 2015
When did the journey with Sikkim Tourism begin for you?
Shova Lama receiving the State Award for meritorious service in tourism sector from Governor of Sikkim on January 26, 2014
I joined Sikkim Tourism as a guide in September 1984 when tourism was totally a new subject in Sikkim. However, the post of a guide gave me plenty of opportunities to learn the tourism system from its ground zero. I had to study history, geography, religion and culture of Sikkim and gave me an opportunity to travel every nook and corner of Sikkim making me familiar with the terrain and people of Sikkim.
I have risen up the ranks with dignity. Over the years my job experience taught me what tourists were looking for when they came to Sikkim and what we could offer them. As a guide I was always looking at giving tourists interesting and memorable experiences. Their appreciation of my state was my reward. I also learnt many things while interacting with tourists; for example, why and how they decided to come to Sikkim, what they liked and disliked about Sikkim and about their family, profession, business, place and culture. Many a time we parted as great friends. Professionally, as a guide, I learnt people skills in dealing with tourists, treating them as honoured and welcomed guests, dealing with drivers, hoteliers, shopkeepers and so on. Further, a training stint with the Department of Tourism, Government of India, in 1987 exposed me to wider understanding of tourism and I learnt about tourism information management in a more scientific way. My job is highly satisfying hence I did not lay emphasis on career management.
What was the greatest challenge you faced as an officer with Sikkim Tourism? What have been your key achievements?
My greatest challenge was when I was posted to Delhi as a tourist officer in 1995. I was the number two in hierarchy in the Delhi Tourist Office and with it came a lot of hard work. My non ambitious nature coupled with my dedication for Sikkim Tourism was recognised by the Government of Sikkim and they promoted me to assistant director and subsequently deputy director and then head of the Delhi office. My job as a guide had helped me in honing the qualities of a successful public relations officer. The greatest moment of gratification in my life came when the Government of Sikkim took recognition of my hard work and dedication and gave me a State Award on the Republic Day 2014 for excellence in performance of duties.
What is the plan chalked out for tourism development of the state?
I am glad to say that Sikkim Tourism has a clear concept about its vision, missions and plans for development of tourism in Sikkim. It has prepared a comprehensive Twelfth Five Year Plan based on Master Plan for Development of Tourism. It has also recently drafted a clear Tourism Policy. In a nutshell, the plan and policy of Sikkim Tourism is to develop sustainable tourism, protecting the natural and cultural environment at any cost, thereby focusing on eco tourism or nature based tourism, adventure tourism, village tourism and spiritual tourism. All new destinations are being created based on these parameters, for example, the Buddha Park at Ravang and awe inspiring Char Dham in South Sikkim. They have become popular tourist attractions now. As far as possible, Sikkim Tourism tries to match development of its tourism products with the market trends; hence, the plans are also flexible, but without compromising the requirements of sustainability.
Where do you feel the state needs to improve to strengthen its tourism further?
I would say that Sikkim Tourism is doing exceedingly well so far as infrastructure and product development is concerned. However, I feel Sikkim Tourism should give equal importance and focus on marketing, because ultimately it is the tourist footfalls that make a destination vibrant.
What is your message on behalf of your state to the rest of the world?
My message to the tourism world is – Sikkim is a pristine, peaceful and pure eco tourism destination. Please come to Sikkim to feel and enjoy the serenity of nature and spirituality.