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Queen Of The Hills Regains Summer Crown - Promise Of Calm Sees Darjeeling Back As Beat-The-Heat Destination For City Tourists


http://www.telegraphindia.com/1110608/jsp/calcutta/story_14083752.jsp

8 June 2011

Sanjay Mandal AND Vivek Chhetri:


The city has got back its someplace else.

Darjeeling has reclaimed its rightful place as Calcutta’s favourite summer destination following the promise of a calm that has eluded it for the past few years.

“There is a sudden rush of tourists to Darjeeling. Bookings have gone up by 20 per cent over the past two weeks and this is not only because of the summer holidays,” said Anil Punjabi of the Travel Agents Federation of India. “Many tourists, who were booking other hill destinations, including Sikkim, are now changing plans and opting for Darjeeling. Also, the bookings for combined packages for Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong are back,” he added.

City-based businessman Debshankar Sinha had planned a trip to Himachal Pradesh this summer. But he changed plans at the last moment, primarily for son Debritam, 6, to make his Darjeeling debut. “We haven’t been to Darj in a decade and he was thrilled to go there,” said Sinha.

More regular visitors can feel — and see — the winds of change. Biswanath and Dolon Ganguly were in Darjeeling last November, but this weekend was different. “This time the crowd count has grown significantly and tourists are moving around freely without any tension,” said Dolon. “The Mall is packed till late evening and the shops are open till late. Darjeeling seems to have got back its old charm.”

Tourism took a beating since June 2008, when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha called a flash strike and asked tourists to vacate the hill town within 24 hours. “Tourist inflow declined by 50 per cent after that,” said a tour operator.

Till then, according to Pradip Lama, the president of the Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents, around four lakh tourists visited Darjeeling annually, almost 60 per cent of them during the March-June period.

“Now, for the past two weeks, all hotels are booked,” said D. Roychoudhury of Worldlink Tours and Travels. The sudden rush has sent tourists scrambling for train and flight tickets. Both Air India and Jet Airways said the Calcutta-Bagdogra flights were going chock-a-block.

“All trains bound for north Bengal have waiting lists till 200,” said an Eastern Railway spokesperson.