| On the lap of the Queen: Kalimpong. File picture
Kalimpong, May 19: A leap in the number of tourists, visitors experimenting with new locales, an adventure sports boom and the blessings of weather gods: the Kalimpong tourism industry could not have asked for more.
Though Lava and Loleygaon still head the list of must-see spots, officials in the tourism industry say they can feel a changing trend in the air.
“Bookings in tourist lodges are up 40 per cent and domestic tourists are keen on exploring less trodden areas like Jaldhaka, Lepcha and Jagat,” said Niraj Singhal, the divisional manager of the forest development corporation here.
Singhal felt the crisp air and sun-kissed valleys that heralded the tourist season prompted the rush.
Rafting, a recent addition to this sector, has also scored a success with most youths and many young-at-heart testing their skills in choppy waters.“Rafting is a great and safe way to pit yourself against the elements. Since these rapids are comparatively easy to negotiate, it is a great way to woo tourists,” said 27-year-old Anil Saha, a Delhi resident vacationing here. The tourism department has pressed five rafts into service to meet the growing demand for the adventure sport.
More than 800 Indians and 375 foreigners had come here in April. The spate has ebbed somewhat this month but still 600 domestic and 178 foreign tourists packed hotels. Most of them are booked for all of June.
“The tourist season started much later than usual this time round but the steady stream of tourists has more than made up for the lost time. Hotel bookings have gone up 20 per cent in comparison to last year,” Hotel and Restaurant Association of Kalimpong president Amar Nath Sood said.
The Hill Council’s tourism area manager, Bimal Gazmer, echoed Sood. “Though we do not have enough lodging facilities in places like Gidabling, Singe, Kagay and Dabling, the adventurous tourists are ready to give the routine lodges the go by for the more unconventional tented accommodation. The less daring are staying in residential houses, getting a first-hand feel of life here,” he said.