23 Jan 2014

Village Tourism: The Darap Way

Darap village, around six kilometres away from famed tourist destination Pelling, has shown how the concept of village tourism would be possible when people from all classes get involved in economic activities and weed out poverty.

With the dream to promote and develop the Limboo village as a tourist destination by using local resources, Mr. Sushil Tamang formed Darap Eco Tourism Committee in 2005 – the youth revolutionary year in Sikkim – drawing in members of the society. Through this apex committee, he helped develop home stays in the village houses, identified potential destinations for villagers and created an infrastructure to develop the tourist spots.

The activities were slow in the first year but picked up gradually when more people joined in to develop the concept. Eight families, registered with the committee started functioning over 20 ethnic houses as home stays, each family having two-three single or double bed rooms to accommodate the tourists.

As months passed by, the members of the committee came up with several offbeat attractions that would entail participation of people from all sections of the society. Attractions came in the form of traditional way of ploughing fields, milking cows, cookery using firewood, carpet weaving, making and drinking local brews around a hearth while sharing folktales, village and jungle walks, learning local language, etc. 

These attractions, besides being appreciated by the guests also generated massive interest when various stakeholders from the Society took it to international conventions and travel and trade fairs across the country. For the adventurists, the home stays started options of trekking, picnic, angling, swimming and mountain biking. Besides, Darap’s proximity to various tourism spots and places of historical and scenic significance are an added advantage.

With such varied attractions, the committee has since its inception managed to pull more than 5,000 visitors including a few hundred foreigners. Unlike yesteryears, the locals making a population over 3,000 under Darap-Nambu Gram Panchayat Unit, through varied subsidiary units like dairy and poultry farming, shops, etc., have a regular flow of earning now. The inflow of tourists in the village was 1,894 in April to June 2011. This is an indication that the idea of developing the place, as an offbeat destination for tourists willing to pay more than the usual hotels in Pelling has changed the lifestyle of the local people.

For having shown “a tremendous amount of dedication, persistence and growth” since the inception of the Darap Eco-Tourism Committee, Mayfair Resorts had also chosen the village for a short tie-up, assisting them in capacity building, human resource development, marketing assistance and creating a sustainable business development module for the village.

With this, it is also obvious that community initiative led by Sushil Tamangtowards promotion and development of Darap has been realised vis-a-vis in generating wide range of employment opportunities and livelihood support of many families in the village. The initiative has also been appreciated by the Sikkim government as Sushil was conferred with the States highest civilian award (the Sikkim Sewa Samman in entrepreneurship) on the occasion of State Day on May 16, 2013.

Darap has also been featured by Leap Local, best travel website of the United Kingdom, 2012 as one of the top ten locals in tourism in the world for his remarkable contribution towards society for local employment generation, which was published by Guardian Newspaper in its June 19, 2012 edition.

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