Covid-19: Darjeeling tour operators say authorities need to decide on allowing visitors in hills

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August 26, 2020 7:21 PM

The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), an autonomous district council, has banned the entry of outsiders in Darjeeling and Kalimpong to combat the spread of coronavirus.

A section of the local people are apprehensive that the virus would spread in the hills if tourists are allowed, and they should be informed of the measures to be taken to ensure their safety, he said. (File image)

Stakeholders in the tourism industry are keen to restart business in the Darjeeling hills in the coming Durga Puja and Diwali season, but they are not being able to guide prospective visitors as the authorities have not decided about allowing hotels to resume operations, tour operators said.

The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA), an autonomous district council, has banned the entry of outsiders in Darjeeling and Kalimpong to combat the spread of coronavirus.

An association of tour operators on Wednesday said that thousands of people linked to the tourism industry have
been out of work for the last several months in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.

“We are getting queries for booking for the Durga Puja and Diwali season, but unless there is a decision by the GTA
on allowing tourists to the various spots in the hills, we are unable to guide them properly,” Raj Basu, Convenor of
Association for Conservation of Tourism, said.

He said that a meeting was held earlier this week with all stakeholders, including owners of hotels and homestays,
and vehicle operators of the region to chalk out a roadmap for reopening of the tourism sector.

“The stakeholders will give a representation to the GTA chairman this week seeking a decision on reopening of the
tourism sector since it is a major source of livelihood in the region,” he said.

Basu claimed that at least one member from almost every family in Darjeeling hills is associated with the tourism sector.

A section of the local people are apprehensive that the virus would spread in the hills if tourists are allowed, and they should be informed of the measures to be taken to ensure their safety, he said.

The measures include keeping rooms empty and open for at least a day between checking out of a guest and checking in
of another, Basu said.

He said that homestays, resorts and hotels have reopened in the neighbouring Dooars region after taking local people and other stakeholders into confidence about safety measures.

“Several destinations in the forested and tea garden-surrounded Dooars have reopened a month back and tourists,
including those from neighbouring Bihar, have started visiting those areas,” he said.

Shankar Roy, a resort owner in the region, said that while some visitors are coming by special trains, others are reaching the spots in their own or hired vehicles.

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