Siliguri, Aug. 13: The state tourism minister today advised tourism stakeholders to promote the Dooars and other places, instead of Darjeeling, when other arms of the government are desperately trying to bring a semblance of normality to the hills.
Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury, who spoke from Malda over phone, said: “Unless there is an improvement in the situation in Darjeeling and the two other hill subdivisions, we cannot simply send tourists to the hills.”
The statement by Krishnendu, which is a wise caution to tourists, is contrary to efforts being made by other ministers, such as Gautam Deb and Jyotipriya Mullick to distribute foodgrain to people and sending buses from Siliguri to the hills.
“It is unfortunate that the tourism industry is suffering because of the indefinite strike (being enforced by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha) and there are apprehensions of huge losses during the coming Durga Puja season,” Chowdhury said.
“Taking into account the manner in which the Morcha forced tourists to walk out of their hotels and leave the hills (during the current stalemate), we cannot persuade visitors to go there now. If the tourists are inconvenienced by the Morcha, we will face criticism.”
Chowdhury said as the US and UK had warned their citizens against visiting the hills, the alternative destinations for the tourists were the Dooars and other places in north Bengal.
“Considering the present state of affairs, we are advising tour operators, hoteliers and other stakeholders to invite tourists to places like the Dooars, Cooch Behar, Murshidabad and Malda. We are advising people not to visit the hills as it is better to lose revenue for some period than to lose the image of the state. ”