Tourism stakeholders in the region have decided to take up with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee their various demands, which include resumption of more train, bus and air services from Kolkata to areas in North Bengal for tourists wanting to visit the area.

A decision to this effect was taken in a meeting held here today among representatives of different tourism organizations in areas under the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) and others in North Bengal. Discussions on the scenario in the region, post-resumption of the tourism industry, were held, along with precautions and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be followed.

“There are a lot of issues and problems in tourism caused by Covid-10 that need to be addressed by the government. A joint representation will be made to the CM in her visit to north Bengal this month, where we will submit a memorandum to her on our demands,” the president of the Himalayan Transport Coordination Committee, SN Pradhan, said. According to sources, Miss Banerjee is scheduled to arrive in Siliguri on 21 September and leave on the 24th.

Speaking on the demands to be raised in the memorandum, Mr Pradhan said, “For tourism to be open properly, the administration should work in making the situation better. More train, bus and air services should be resumed from Kolkata to this area, so that tourists can come here. There is no use opening hotels if tourists do not come in. With places like Gujarat and Maharashtra not allowing people to visit other areas, we are hoping that tourists from Kolkata could visit this area in the tourist season of October and November.”

According to the Secretary of the Darjeeling Homestay Owners’ Association,

Prashant Raj Pradhan, other demands that they will take up with the CM include waiver of electricity bills for the lockdown period, along with GST and other taxes for the lockdown period, and municipality taxes and trade license fees for hotels and home stays.

Other demands also include financial stimulus for working capital and expediting the homestay registration process, among others. In the transport sector, the demands include waiver of taxes and penalty on commercial vehicles till 31 December, extension of moratorium on EMI/loans and extension of validity of insurance, fitness, route permit until the situation is better.

Today’s meeting also decided that an umbrella organisation comprising different tourism stakeholders in the GTA area would be formed.

At present, hotels in Darjeeling are open with a handful of tourists in some of them, while on the other hand, parks and gardens run by the GTA have also opened this month. Among those already open to tourists include Tiger Hill, Rock Garden, and Gangamaya Park. Sources said that around 30 to 40 tourists are visiting these places every day presently. Similarly, ‘Wayside Inns’ run by the GTA are also open, though resorts and tourist lodges under it are yet to reopen, while they are expected to resume services in October, along with boating at the Gangamaya and Jamuney parks, sources said.

“All procedures are being followed, like regular sanitation of the area, along with following SOPs issued by the Centre,” a source said.