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Strike blow to tour operators’ Puja plans

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 14, 2009

The Bengal stall at the tourism fair showcases the Kanchenjungha and the Darjeeling toy train to attract tourists who chose to look the other way.

The Bengal stall at the tourism fair showcases the Kanchenjungha and the Darjeeling toy train to attract tourists who chose to look the other way.

Siliguri, July 13: The indefinite strike call by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha during the ongoing Travel and Tourism Fair in Calcutta has disappointed the tour operators of north Bengal.

“The sudden call of indefinite strike, that, too, during the fair where we get around 75 per cent of the total domestic bookings for Darjeeling and Sikkim in the Durga Puja season, has hit us hard,” said Raj Basu of Help Tourism, one of the top tour operators of north Bengal, from Calcutta. “It seems hard to get out of this loss as most tourists and their booking agents who visited the fair instantly changed decisions.”

The three-day fair, billed to be the largest in eastern India, concluded this evening. West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation was one of the organisers.

“We sat upset in our stalls, helplessly watching people moving to other states and making bookings for the Puja. The ongoing economic recession has reduced the number of international tourists to our region and we were largely banking on domestic tourists. But this unexpected development, a couple of months before the Puja, has left us keeping our fingers crossed,” Basu added.

Stakeholders from the tourism sector of north Bengal, who visited the fair at the Netaji Indoor Stadium, said the enquiries were good on the first day but abruptly dropped after the strike was called.

Samrat Sanyal, the general secretary of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association, said: “The enquiry is steady and people are still interested in visiting Darjeeling and Sikkim. But after the call of indefinite strike, we can neither assure them of a smooth tour nor can we accept their bookings. Even bookings for Sikkim cannot be accepted now,” he said. “As on date, it is clear that we will incur losses during the Pujas.”

The disappointed operators, however, have thought of writing to the Morcha. “Once we return from Calcutta, we plan to send an appeal to the Morcha leaders, mentioning in details the negative effects of an indefinite strike on the tourism industry that provides substantial employment,” Sanyal said.

But the Morcha leadership is firm on its decision. “There is no question of withdrawing the strike which we have called to achieve our ultimate demand of a separate state,” Roshan Giri, the party general secretary, said at Bagdogra before leaving for Delhi today.

Source: The Telegraph


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