Gorkhatimes

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Queen of the Hills in tourist drought

Posted by Ramesh Khati on July 16, 2009

KOLKATA, 15 JULY: City-based tour operators have gone into a sulk as Darjeeling, the queen of the hills, which is one of the principle tourist destinations in the state, is in the grip of an indefinite strike.
While most travel agents associations claimed that the ongoing strike called by the Gorkha Jana Mukti Morcha (GJMM) has hampered bookings for the festive season, some claimed that they have not been hampered as yet.
Mr Bacchu Chowdhury, vice-president of the Travel Agent Association of Bengal, said the impact of turmoil has definitely affected tourist inflow in these areas.
As Sikkim, Darjeeling and the Dooars fall in the same tourism circuit, unrest in any one of the three places is bound to affect tourism throughout that region.
He also added that after the GJMM called the strike more than 80 per cent of hotel bookings have been cancelled.
Mrs Kamta Roy, assistant secretary of Tourism Service Providers said the political turmoil in the Darjeeling hills is taking its toll on tourism in the Dooars. “Tourists are thinking twice before opting for this part of north Bengal including the Dooars area. The number of bookings have reduced for areas like Labangla, Gangtok and Pelling,” she added.
However, some tour operators claimed that no tourist bookings have been cancelled and they apprehend that before the pujas the situation will return to normal.
Mr AK Maity, manager of Gorkha Hill Council Tourism, said the impact of the strike has not affected the tourism industry at large.
He said that till now there had been no cancellations in the entire northeastern circuit. He added that if the impasse continues for a long time then it might affect the tourism industry.
Meanwhile, some tour operators claimed that due to the strike some of the tourists were planning to take alternative destinations especially in Himachal Pradesh, and Ooty.
Mr Raj Basu, president of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operator Association said they got a huge response from the Travel and Tourism Fair (TTF), but this year no tourist had shown very little willingness to visit Darjeeling and Sikkim.

Source: The Statesman

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