An “unprecedented rush” of tourists is expected in the Darjeeling hills, Sikkim and the Dooars this Puja and Diwali as visitors stay off a lockdown-hit Jammu and Kashmir and flood-wracked Kerala, travel operators said.
“Around 90 per cent of the rooms have been booked from October 1 till Diwali. Even homestay, most of which are in rural pockets, have bookings of 85 per cent,” said Sajal Sarkar, assistant director of state tourism in Siliguri.
Subhasish Chakraborty, a veteran of travel trade in the region, pointed out that a large number of tourists visited Kashmir, Ladakh and Kerala earlier.
“But this time, the situation is different and tourists from other states are shifting to north Bengal. Also, this is the second major season after summer when tourists from Bangladesh will be visiting Sikkim,” Chakraborty said. Curbs on the entry of Bangladeshi visitors in Sikkim, a border state, were lifted by the Centre last year.
“Many of us are exploring new places and also offering new itineraries to tourists so that there is no overcrowding in common destinations,” said Chakraborty.
The high bookings have brought cheers to homestay owners. Raj Basu, convenor of the Association for Conservation & Tourism, said: “We have 1,335 homestay owners as our members. Apart from these, there are another 1,500 homestay facilities in the region, including Sikkim. They have good bookings till Diwali.” Bengal tourism minister Gautam Deb said efforts were on to develop new destinations in areas like Rangbool (Sonada), Holong in Madarihat and Chalsa in Jalpaiguri.
Source: The Telegraph