Finally, the hoteliers are hoping to be back in the pink of their business. They see green as the festival of colours is round the corner.
With the COVID pandemic wreaking havoc in the hotel and travel business for the last two-and-a-half years, the tourism industry is hoping to come out of the red soon. This also means the last minute-planners are left in the lurch as the rooms are full at nearby getaways from the city such as Digha, Darjeeling or surrounding districts.
Another favourite destination for Bengalis, Puri in Odisha is also reporting full occupancy over the weekend. But no one’s complaining. As the COVID cases are on the decline and the fear for the deadly virus ebbs, people are resorting to revenge tourism and how. Sonar Bangla hotel in Kolaghat, a two-hour or so drive from the city, is fully booked for the weekend starting Friday. The 5-star property, beside the Rupnarayan river will offer rain dance, live DJ and abir on Holi apart from the buffet lunch at Rs 999 plus taxes.
Goutam Mondal, manager operations, Sonar Bangla said, “The rooms were full around 10 days back and we are unable to accommodate any more guests in our 110- room accommodation. The business is looking up for us now. But the speculation of the fourth wave in June looms large. We are keeping our fingers crossed.”
Pine Tree Spa Resort in Darjeeling too is reporting no rooms much ahead of the weekend. Rajesh Rajak, general manager of the resort said, “The season has started well. We are doing good occupancy. And the rush is not just for Holi. All rooms are full till the next weekend. We are following all COVID protocols for our 45 rooms, consisting of Executive (Rs 5,500 per night) and Heritage rooms (Rs 6,000). We are hopeful that if all goes well, we will be able to rebound from the loss.”
With pleasant weather greeting guests at Darjeeling now, tourists from Bihar, Jharkhand, and faraway Mumbai, apart from Kolkata frequent the destination. Tulika Sahay, an education consultant and an avid traveller is disappointed to miss out on a short vacay as she could not find any decent hotel. “I have now decided to join my friends for a Holi party,” she said.
Susanta Patra, president of Digha-Shankarpur Hoteliers’ Association says the hotels in the twin sea-side destinations have been reporting sold out since the beginning of February. “Around 5 per cent of the hotels may have rooms but they will not be satisfactory to the travellers. People are desperate to go out. Though we are forcing our patrons to follow all the COVID guidelines, it remains doubtful how many people will follow rules in the mad rush,” he said.
There are 750-800 hotels in the area. Mr Patra said for close to three years now, the hotels have had not much business and suffered heavy losses. “February onwards, the business has started to look up. Many of the hotel owners failed to pay their power bill, salary to the staff and defaulted on bank instalments. I hope we get to make up somewhat if the season runs smoothly. We are banking on the summer vacations to make up for our losses,” said Mr Patra.