| Sunday crowd at the fair. (Bishwarup Dutta)
The ubiquitous Bengali tourist sporting the trademark monkey cap is a thing of yore, but wanderlust is very much alive among Calcuttans, who turned out in large numbers at the Anandabazar Patrika Tourist Spot, a tourism fair presented by NVD, at Netaji Indoor Stadium on Sunday.
With three months to go before Durga Puja, Calcuttans are in a rush to chalk out their holiday travel plans. The fair clocked a turnout of nearly 20,000 people over three days and the 130 stalls left them spoilt for choice. So many options under one roof made it easier to pick the best deal, said Rakhi Chowdhury from Chandernagore, who booked a holiday to Rajasthan.
The travel-loving Bengali has moved ahead of Digha and Darjeeling to Egypt, South Africa, the Far East, Kashmir, the Silk Route, Andaman and Kerala backwaters.
I love travelling and go on a holiday every Puja. This time it will be South Africa for its adventure and wildlife, said Dilip Kumar Ghosh, a senior medical officer.
The choice of destinations took tour operators by surprise as well. We didnt expect the tours to South Africa to sell so well. In keeping with the trend, we have decided to open up more departure days, said Anil Pulipalayam of SOTC.
The Far East remained a favourite. I am planning a five-day vacation. Thailand with its wonderful scenic beauty seems to be the best choice, said Javed Khan.
Thailand and Malaysia make affordable trips. We had families booking trips to Hong Kong for Disneyland, said Ritu Bain, the regional manager of makemytrip.
Egypt too was back on the tourism map. For more than two years, tourists kept away because of the political turmoil there but Egypt is now back in demand, said a Thomas Cook spokesperson.
Within the country, the votes went to Kashmir. Kashmir is an all-time favourite and there are many good deals on offer, said homemaker Debjani Chakraborty.
College students Avishek Bardhan and Suvankar Dey were ready to hit the Silk Route. We were looking for an adventure tour for our group of six. We decided on Zuluk and Sandakphu, said Avishek.