With the strike for Gorkhaland withdrawn, tourists from Bengal have started trickling into their favourite Puja destination.
This has come as a ray of hope for hoteliers and tour operators, who were severely affected by the over 100-day strike.
Five days after the agitation was called off, tourists, mostly from Bengal, reached Darjeeling to make their Puja vacation memorable.
“We plan our trip for the Puja vacation every year. This time we wanted to come to Darjeeling but changed our plans because of the strike. However, when we heard the strike had been called off, we booked tatkal train tickets and reached Darjeeling on Saturday. It was a bit scary at first but the mountains eased my nerves. I will stay here for four days with my family and soak in nature at its best,” said Kolkata resident Debasish Banerjee.
Durga Puja has always attracted tourists, mainly from Bengal given the proximity and low cost of the visit, but the statehood agitation that started in June had put the Hills out of bounds.
However, the few tourist that did brave the trip to the Hills found no problems except for proper hotel service. Some even got to witness the Moharram akhada at Motor Stand. “I planned my travel to Darjeeling all of a sudden. I arrived on Saturday with friends and their families. I even got to see the akhada, which I never thought I would witness except in Kolkata,” said Sheikh Javed Mustafa, a Behala resident.
Hoteliers and tour operators are not complaining. “The few tourists here are from Bangladesh and Kolkata. It is only an extension of their visit to Sikkim because the strike has been called off. It is a good sign for us as we had incurred huge cancellations. Also, Puja this time was early and October is the season for tourists to come to Darjeeling. Let’s hope things remain normal,” said Pradip Lama, general secretary of Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents.
Kamal Banerjee, manager of a reputed hotel in the town, is optimistic that tourists will come to the Hills in spite of the trouble. “Ten rooms in my hotel are booked and I am getting fresh inquiries. I am sure bookings will pick up. Darjeeling’s economy relies on tourism. Any disturbances will have an adverse effect,” he said.
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