Kolkata: Darjeeling, which had always been a favourite summer destination for tourists, is once again set to witness a record footfall during this season, as Kolkata-based tour agencies are seeing an unprecedented number of bookings this year.
The tour operators have expressed their gratitude to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose able leadership has resolved the issues related to Darjeeling. Due to the Gorkhaland agitation, there had been a dip in the tourist footfall in the past one and half years.
According to a tour operator on Lenin Sarani, many people have already placed their bookings for Darjeeling, during Durga Puja. The number has been increased a few times compared to the previous year. Last year, the other hill towns in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand had seen significant influx of tourists from Bengal, as agitation was going on in Darjeeling.
"There is always a trend among the Bengalis to go to Darjeeling during the summer and Durga Puja. In the past one and half years, there had been a dip in the tourist flow to the hill station. The situation has become normal now, with people showing interest in Darjeeling again. This has become possible due to the prolonged efforts of our Chief Minister," one of the officials of the tour operator said.
People from Bengal and other states preferred to go to other hill stations, due to the continued agitation. The agitation had hit tourism hardest in the last year. The worry of the tourists soared after Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) chief Bimal Gurung warned the tourists to stay away from Darjeeling, causing a serious economic crunch for the traders and hoteliers in the hill station.
Things were getting worse as the tourists from Bengal and outside preferred not to visit Darjeeling due to the continuous threats of the
GJM chief. The Bengal Chief Minister had lashed out at the GJM chief's warning to the tourists, by saying 'asking tourists to keep away amounts to keeping away Goddess Lakshmi'.
The hospitality and transport sectors were badly affected as the people deserted one of India's oldest hill stations. The issue was resolved following prompt and effective action by the Chief Minister and also through implementation of various development schemes in the hill station.
A Siliguri-based tour operator said that Darjeeling is expected to see record footfall during this year's Puja and Christmas. They have already started taking bookings for the Puja holidays in October.