KOLKATA: Nearly a year after 105-day Gorkhaland statehood agitation dried up tourist inflows to Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts of West Bengal causing massive losses to the local businesses, tourist inflows have gradually picked up this year.
While around 2.5 lakh tourists had visited the two districts last year before the onset of the agitation in June, some 1.2 lakh tourists have visited the hill towns this April to June season, according
to sources in the tourism department.
“Though the numbers are much lesser than last year but we are optimistic that more people will flock the hills as summer gets harsher in the plains,” said hotelier Raju Sharma.
Despite the lesser inflows as compared to last year, hotels in Darjeeling are still booked till the end of this season in June, sources revealed.
A three-day strike of truckers had caused some panic in the tourist industry as the transportation sector, a key segment of the tourism industry, depends on petrol brought by the tankers from Siliguri. However, the tourism doyens heaved a sigh of relief after the truckers lifted their strike on May 17.
The two districts receive tourists from across the nation but the chunk is still made by Bengalis from the plains.
Panic had set in among tourists and many of them were caught off-guard when Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supremo Bimal Gurung suddenly called a strike against alleged imposition of Bengali language last
year. Though locals prepared food for them, many tourists faced difficulties in returning to Siliguri due to
unavailability of public transport.
A year later, Bimal Gurung is in hiding and GJM has been taken over by rebel leader Binay Tamang who is perceived as close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Suraj Sharma, spokesperson of Binay Tamang faction of the GJM said: “Huge losses were incurred during last year’s strike. However, things have normalised and we urge tourists to visit Darjeeling in large numbers. More tourist destinations would be opened for them from October.” The hill districts also
witness a second tourist season after onset of winter from November onwards.