With the Covid-19 pandemic not showing signs of easing any time soon, the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) has decided to resume tourism related activities from 1 July.
While hotels have decided to resume operations, the GTA has said tourist spots under it will also be reopened for visitors. Tourists will, however, have to follow the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) of the central government issued in view of the pandemic.
“A maximum number of people here are directly or indirectly dependent on tourism. It is a matter of their livelihood. There are many hotels that have not been able to pay their workers as they have no earning at present. Similarly, others dependent on tourism like shops and taxis also have no earning and we have to think of them too,” the GTA Assistant Director of Tourism, Suraj Sharma, said.
“The central government has already issued directions that the sector could reopen on 8 June, and we are doing this after a gap of about one month. We had done nothing as there were no proper guidelines, but now that the central government has prepared them, we will follow them,” Mr Sharma added.
According to him, the decision to restart the tourism sector from next month was taken recently in a meeting where, apart from GTA representatives, officials from the district administration, police, and representatives from hotels and workers’ unions of different political parties were present.
According to Mr Sharma, thermal screening points will be set up at different entry points to the GTA like Simulbari, which will check tourists coming in to Kurseong, Mirik and Darjeeling. Similarly, the one at Kalijhora will check tourists coming in to Kalimpong, Sittong and Mungpo, with the other one at Rangpo, checking tourists coming in from Sikkim.
Thermal screening will also be done in hotels where the tourists check in.
Medical Fitness Certificates from their medical centre at their place of origin will also be a must for the tourists. “There are a lot of other guidelines set by the Centre, which should all be followed. It must be made sure that the safety and security of all concerned should be kept in mind, along with those nearby,” said Mr Sharma.
Speaking on some guidelines, he added, “When tourists check out from rooms, the hotel will have to keep that room empty for 24 hours and sanitized. Regular santisation of the hotel premises, along with tourist spots, will also be done. Things like masks will also be mandatory for everyone. Vehicles that bring in tourists will also carry only 50 percent their capacity.” Among the different tourist spots that will reopen on 1 July under the GTA include Rock Garden, Gangamaya Park, and Tiger Hill in Darjeeling. He also appealed to tourists to come in individual vehicles as much as possible, and urged hotels not to take in group bookings at present. Asked about cases where communities were not allowing tourists to get near their areas, Mr Sharma said, “If such cases arise, we will sit with the community there and try and make them understand.” Hotels, especially homestays, had been getting a lot of enquiries and bookings recently. However, they had not been able to confirm the bookings in lack of no proper guidelines. Those associated with the tourism industry have been maintaining that a lot of enquiries had been coming in for June, while many were interested to make prior bookings for the month of October and September.