The resumption of air travel between India and Bangladesh on Sunday has lifted the hopes of businesses in central Kolkata which are now eyeing a turnaround ahead of the Puja.
Traders and hoteliers in New Market, Free School Street, Marquis Street, Lindsay Street and Park Street, where trade depends heavily on Bangladeshi customers, breathed a sigh of relief after the first flight from Dhaka, a Biman Bangladesh one, landed at Kolkata airport on Sunday morning for the first time since flight movement between the two countries got suspended during the second wave in April.
This, even without our guests from Bangladesh, is one of the most crowded areas of the city. It is great news that commerce will resume in this district; lots of businesses have faced a very difficult time since the outbreak of Covid-19. But care needs to be taken and all protocols need to be followed if we want the busy times to last.
“Our business depends entirely on a section of upscale Bangladeshi customers who come over during Eid and Puja to shop from here. Even in the midst of the pandemic, there were a few dedicated customers last year. But this year, business has been down to almost nothing in the last few months. I just hope the resumption of flights bring back some of my loyal foreign customers,” said Sunil Mahato, who owns a garments shop on Marquis Street.
A New Market shop owner said Bangaldeshi customers constitute nearly 50% of their sales. “With travel resuming with medical visas, most people would be back with their patients. We hope they will come to shop at New Market, too,” said Vinay Mangalani, owner of Bombay Silk Stores. This was echoed by the owners of Menka, another popular saree shop at New Market.
While Bangladeshis account for over 50% sales at New Market, they also boost 70% business in hotels, guest houses and foreign currency exchanges on Sudder Street, Marquis Street, Free School Street, Royd Street and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road and 80% of the transport business in the area.
“During Pujas in pre-Covid times, we used to tie up with other guest houses to arrange for additional rooms for our patrons. But their absence now has hit us badly,” said Mir Ashraf Ali, manager of Oriental Hotel on Sudder Street.
Eateries like Kasturi and Radhuni on Free School Street which also largely depend on Bangladeshi customers have already started decking up their menu with lots of items that are favourites among the visitors.
Source: Times of India