With an impending deadlock in Darjeeling, tourism is predicted to experience an all-time low thereby affecting the livelihood of the tourism driven state.
The Hills have already witnessed a dip in tourism post its peak tourism season owing to the standstills and hunger strike that have declared the Hills as ‘unsafe’ to tourists travelling there. Darjeeling, which has been a favourite hill station, especially among Indians, owing to its sudden inaccessibility has opened up alternate destination choices for travellers with them opting for Bhutan and similar places.
A local hotelier of the Darjeeling region commented, “It is very tiresome, this situation; it is like being in a deadlock, not only politically but economically as well. There is no denying that Darjeeling is a tourism driven state and our main income lies in the travel trade business. Now, if that is being affected for an indefinite period it will become really difficult for us to sustain ourselves.”
The bandh has already been on for more than 60 days now and is bearing an estimated loss of around INR 750 million.
Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) chairman, West Bengal, Debjit Dutta said, “There are several important factors that affect tourism out of which one is physical factors. This includes social or political disturbances such as indefinite strike, affecting plans of people who are willing to visit a certain area, in today’s scenario, say Darjeeling. Locals, that is those within West Bengal may still have thoughts to visit once the scope arises but people from outside India or even the state would not as there is an uncertainty that involves money and disruption that affects their travel plans.”
A local tour operator, Kallol Roy stated, “Summer vacations followed by Durga Puja experience maximum number of visitors to Darjeeling. However, this year the situation is grim. Potential tourists are looking for other options this year. I have always had queries about Darjeeling from tourists around this time up until last year while this year the scenario is completely changed. They are looking for other alternatives within a similar price bracket as that of visiting the Hills.”
Talking about how it is going to affect the Hills if the situation persists, he further added, “Several small businesses including hoteliers are sustaining themselves on tourism. That is what they always did and with the tourism badly hit they now do not know what to do. Their entire livelihood revolved around this.”
In the meanwhile, relief is being organised by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) for people of Darjeeling hills during the ongoing indefinite strike.