The Queen of Hills still seems to catch the fancy of tourists, even as the Covid-19 pandemic refuses to die down.
Those associated with the tourism sector have said that a good number of enquiries are pouring in, but that no bookings are being taken, given the present scenario and the lack of clear guidelines from the government.
According to them, more interest is being shown for home-stays in secluded areas.
“There are a good number of enquiries coming in from tourists wanting to come and spend some time here in home-stays. The main reason could be the monotonous life due to the pandemic and the lockdown,” said Jitu Giri, the coordinator of the United Himalayan Homestay and Tourism Association, which has members from different places under the Gorkhland Territorial Administration.
“We are, however, not taking any bookings right now, as there are many factors involved in doing so, like safety. We must also take into account the community and the administration as to what they have to say and move ahead with them. We are discussing things among ourselves, but have not come up with any concrete decision,” he said, adding that most enquiries are coming from tourists in West Bengal.
There are around 1700 to 1800 home-stays in the GTA area presently.
According to the general secretary of the Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents, Pradip Lama, this is the time when bookings for the month of October and November begin.
“Tourists are calling in to find out and make bookings, but we are not taking any due to the uncertainty caused by the Covid pandemic. While locals coming from outside are being asked to stay in quarantine, the government is also saying tourism can resume, which is confusing, as tourists too come from outside,” he said.
“There is also the issue of our community, which will raise questions as to why tourists are being allowed to stay in hotels during such times, which is also logical. We are having talks with the government regarding all these issues and will also approach the district administration, asking them what we are to do as there are no proper guidelines,” Mr Lama said.
According to him, bookings for the tourist season of April and May this year were overwhelming with almost all hotels packed, but that the pandemic had affected while they had to refund amounts taken in advance.
Commenting on this, the GTA Assistant Director of Tourism, Suraj Sharma, said, “We are hearing that there have been a lot of enquiries from tourists, especially in the home-stay sector. We have called a meeting with homestay owners to discuss the matter on Friday. Likewise, we will also meet communities in those places where enquiries have come for. We will hear what they want and accordingly come up with a solution.”
Asked about the safety issues regarding tourists, he said, “First we must find out what the people and the owners want, and only after that we can work it out with the Health Department.”