Updates to Darjeeling Travel News; Political situation in the Hills

Siliguri, Dec. 31: Snowfall holds little attraction for tourists to the Darjeeling hills and Sikkim this year, thanks to the regular blockades set up by the Gorkha Janmukti Vidyarthi Morcha on NH55 and NH31A.

“Given the present political situation, we cannot fix itinerary for tourists who are contacting us to enjoy the winter and snowfall in the hills,” said Lukendra Rasaily, the general secretary of the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim, which has 245 members. “Despite the regular snowfall in high-altitude areas like Nathu-la, Kupup and Chhangu Lake in Sikkim, the inflow of tourists is comparatively less. People are coming but after rescheduling and adjusting their journey time.”

According to Rasaily, many tourists are leaving for the plains early in the morning to avoid the road blockade while others are waiting for the blockade to be lifted and travelling in the late afternoon and evening. “We are telling the tourists, who are enquiring with us, that there may be changes in travel time. The increase in the duration of blockades has made the situation further complicated for us,” he said.

Other stakeholders associated with the tourism sector have also highlighted similar problems.

“Though the mercury is dipping and the climate is congenial for snowfall, the blockades on national highways and demonstrations have left us concerned,” said Samrat Sanyal, the general secretary of the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association. “We are getting enquiries from tourists but the agitation programmes are affecting the itineraries of tourists, grossly affecting the business. It is a state of utter confusion for us. As there is no consistent strike, we are not cancelling the trips of the tourists, but we can neither be sure of their itinerary as every day new announcements of political activities are being made.”