Hoteliers & tour operators walk the extra mile, ask tourists to stay back

Darjeeling: Hotel owners and tour operators in Darjeeling are trying to walk the extra yard to accommodate the few tourists who are still willing to stay back.

Those involved in the tourist trade in Darjeeling are out to thwart the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s efforts to scare away tourists from the Hills. “I am a hardcore GJM supporter but I don’t support this culture of violence and bandhs, particularly during the tourist season. I shall be taking around tourists for sight-seeing, come what may,” Raj, a local taxi driver, said.

Tour operators and transporters say that they have already lost enough.

“This was one of the best seasons in years. Apart from Kolkata and other parts of West Bengal, we had tourists from Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and even Bangladesh. There were busloads of Bangladeshis who arrived as they aren’t allowed to visit Sikkim. They left with the first signs of trouble. There were so many tourists that people were actually sleeping at Darjeeling station. Look at the situation now. Hotels are slashing rates but nobody is interested. Most Bengali tourists have left. Those remaining are mostly from other states as they are of the belief that this has nothing to do with them,” a tour operator said.

“We have spent a lot on this trip and we are staying. The hotel staff have assured us that we will come to no harm,” said N Rajan, a tourist from Kerala who plans to stay on in Darjeeling with his family till Wednesday.

In another hotel near the Chowrasta, a couple from Kolkata on their honeymoon checked in around 7 pm on Sunday. “We had always wanted to spend our honeymoon in Darjeeling. Things don’t seem all that bad. In fact, things look better now that most people have left. We spoke to our travel agent and he assured us that things will be fine here. We were even given a discount by the taxi that dropped us here from Bagdogra,” said Sheela Roy.

From Thursday onward, tour operators in Siliguri and Darjeeling have been doing their best to accommodate customers who wanted a change in plans but there are limits. It has also been a good tourist season for Sikkim and there wasn’t sufficient accommodation in the Dooars.

Even the government has suffered losses. There were many who had booked forest department bungalows and lodges in the Terai and Dooars. A visit to the Hills was part of the itinerary. After trouble erupted in Darjeeling, such tourists started demanding their money back from the state department.

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