When Narbu G. Lama, owner of the Takdah Heritage Colonial Bungalow 12 here, got a call on Tuesday for a booking later this month, he thought his ears had deceived him.
“The caller said he needed a room for five for June 12,” said Lama. “I asked him if he meant October, but the caller repeated that he meant June.”
There may be a ray of hope for tourism, which is among the worst-hit sectors in the pandemic.
When The Telegraph contacted the caller, Kunal Chakraborty, 34, a schoolteacher in Raiganj, North Dinajpur, he said he wanted to visit Darjeeling with friends as he was tired of being cooped up during the lockdown.
“We will take precautions against Covid-19, wear masks, take along disinfectants, go in personal cars and stay indoors,” the travel buff said.
Lama said callers like Chakraborty were providing new insights into what tourists were looking for in the “new normal”, which would help the homestay sector.
“Perhaps people are looking at healing tourism, where you visit a place, stay within the premises and practise yoga or simply relax in the lap of nature,” Lama said.
United Himalaya Homestay and Tourism Association coordinator Jeetu Giri said there were some 1,800 homestays in the hills and around 3,000 in north Bengal.
“Many homestay owners are receiving booking queries,” Giri said, but added that they were not accepting bookings. “We will first have a meeting to assess what homestay owners want, get in touch with the police and administration and put in place standard operating procedures for everyone’s safety,” Giri said.
Suraj Sharma, assistant director of tourism, Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, also agreed that all stakeholders needed to talk before moving forward.
Source: The Telegraph