Major blow to tourism: India-Nepal land border closed for foreign tourists

Major blow to tourism: India-Nepal   land border closed for foreign tourists

Darjeeling: The closure of the India-Nepal land border at Panitanki, near Siliguri, for foreign tourists (only Indians and Nepalese nationals are allowed to use this land border), that too without any official notice, has caused a major dent in tourism in this region. Despite the issue being raised in different forums — both national and region — the matter is yet to be addressed.

The tourism industry was the worst hit during the pandemic. However with the end of the pandemic, tourism is gradually regaining lost ground. “Despite all the efforts, the land border Panitanki remaining closed since 2020 for foreign tourists has dealt a major blow. There is no official communication regarding the closure either,” claimed Vishal Chamling, tour operator, while talking to Millennium Post, said.

Panitanki, the Indian border with Nepal is located around 30 km from Siliguri in the district of Darjeeling in Bengal.

Chamling stated that owing to this package, tour costs are going up and valuable tour days are also being lost. “Above all, the harassment faced by the foreign tourists is terrible,” he added.

Citing an example, Chamling stated that usually a one week tour, including pickup in Bhadrapur (Eastern Nepal,) Darjeeling, Sikkim and drop at Bhadrapur costs around US $1000.

“With the land border Panitanki, near Siliguri closed, the foreign tourist has to fly from Kathmandu to Delhi and then to Bagdogra. While returning they have to fly to Delhi from Bagdogra and then to Kathmandu. This takes time and an additional cost of around US $500. Besides, during the peak tourist season, the flight fares are exorbitant. The tour package rates are going up owing to this,” explained Chamling.

The backpackers or budgeted foreign tourists prefer to cross over from Nepal at Raxaul in Bihar or Gorakhpur in UP and catch trains from there. Around four days are lost in transit. The harassment is unimaginable, trying to get train tickets to NJP from Raxaul or Gorakhpur.

Despite repeated complaints, the Union government seems to have turned a deaf ear. “We have time and again raised this issue but the problem is yet to be addressed. The tourist season is just round the corner and this is becoming a major problem. The government should immediately address this issue,” stated Sharon Gurung of the Eastern Himalayan Guide Welfare Association.

North Bengal is steadily losing face in the international tourism arena owing to this. “Foreign tourists usually visit Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim and Darjeeling as a circuit. We have been raising this issue constantly at national and regional forums. However, there hasn’t been any response. Not only Darjeeling and Sikkim, tour operators from Delhi have been constantly pressuring us for this. From October 3, as a priority, we will knock on each and every door, including the Darjeeling Member of Parliament to resolve this issue at the earliest,” stated Raj Basu, Convenor, Association for Conservation of Tourism.

Basu stated that in the pre-pandemic days, the region used to witness around 2 lakh foreign tourist footfall (including Bangladeshi tourists).

Next Story
Share it