Sikkim cashing in on Darjeeling unrest to boost its tourism

The GJM agitation in Darjeeling led to the cancellation of bookings by domestic and foreign tourists in the 'Queen of hill stations' and make travel arrangements in Sikkim.

Published: 20th June 2017 10:35 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th June 2017 02:23 PM   |  A+A-

Stranded tourists wait at a bus stand during the indefinite strike called by Gorkha Janamukti Morcha, in Darjeeling on Monday | PTI

By Express News Service

GANGTOK: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha's agitation in Darjeeling district of West Bengal has come as a boon to the neighbouring state of Sikkim as tourists, who had planned to visit the Darjeeling Hills, are now turning to Sikkim.

"The tension in Darjeeling has led to a sudden boom in tourism here," Sikkim tourism secretary C Zangpo said.

He said domestic and foreign tourists were cancelling their Darjeeling plans and were instead making travel arrangements for Sikkim.  

"Tourist establishments in Gangtok are currently packed with customers. Hotels are fully booked for the coming days," Zangpo added.

Travel operators, however, are concerned about having to handle so many tourists at once.

"We have asked travel operators and hotels to try and accommodate as many tourists as they can without compromising on the service standards. Any mismanagement at this time could give a bad name to the state's tourism industry," Zangpo said.

Many hotels are fully booked until mid-July. Many are currently not entertaining new booking enquiries, a travel operator said.

Santanu Bose, a tourist from Kolkata, said, "We had been in Darjeeling on a holiday when all this happened. Our travel agent immediately contacted the operators in Sikkim and we were lucky to get reservations there."

However, many tourists cut short their visit and returned, Bose told PTI.

Sikkim Nationalised Transport buses are plying the roads connecting the two states every day. Sikkim government sources said they had requested their West Bengal counterparts on Sunday to provide security to vehicles passing through the National Highway 31A.

The 92 km long NH 31A connects Sevoke in the Darjeeling district to Gangtok, the Sikkim capital. Around 30 km of the highway passes through the West Bengal. 

The West Bengal government has assured that security would be provided to the Sikkim-bound vehicles and the police would carry out extensive patrolling of the highway.

Since June 8, Darjeeling has witnessed clashes between the GJM activists and police over demands for a separate Gorkhaland state.

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