Agitation in Darjeeling to hit tourism: Tour operators

DARJEELING
12 Jun 2017

The ongoing political unrest in Darjeeling will hit hard tourism in the area and the pinch will be felt in the coming days, tour operators here said today.

"The current situation in the hills is not good. It is the peak season for us. But after this unrest most of our businesses are going to Sikkim. This is a short term effect but in the long term it may have a bigger impact," Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators' Association president Samrat Sanyal told news agency PTI today. "The saddest part is that it was after a long time that we were having a great season this year in the hills. It could have been an all time record if this unexpected situation had not cropped up," Sanyal said.

"Darjeeling had recorded over 100 per cent occupancy in the hotels and they were full till June 30, but now most of the bookings have either been cancelled or tourists are requesting us to defer the bookings to some other time in the year," he said. Most of the tourists are either going to Sikkim while many have moved to Dooars. The state government is urging the tourists to stay in the hills promising them security and protection. Some tourists had stayed back even after June 8 when Darjeeling had witnessed violence which resulted in the deployment of army.

But things have changed following the indefinite bandh called by GJM in government offices in the hills from today. Although hotels and transport were exempted from the purview of the bandh, Gurung's statement that it would be better for the tourists to leave as the situation is deteriorating, has unnerved them. The unrest will definitely hit the brand Darjeeling, which was built in the last five to six years' since Trinamool Congress government came to power in 2011, Sanyal said.

In fact, tour operators were sceptical whether foreign tourists will at all be visiting the hills during September. Nearly 10,000 to 12,000 advance bookings had already been made by them. "Foreign tourists visit Darjeeling during September not in May-June period and we have a huge number of inbound bookings starting from Thai series, American series and UK series among others. We are not sure what will happen. This unrest may have an adverse effect on that also," Sanyal said.

Echoing him, former president of the Association Subhasish Chakraborty said, "We are getting several calls from foreign tourists who have made pre-bookings asking for advice whether they can travel here or not. They are asking for security assurance from us." But tour operators cannot give assurance to the tourists of safety and security.