Rain and flooding in north India is keeping tourists away and Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and even Kashmir have found hardly any takers among Puja travellers this year.
South Indian states, on the other hand, are the popular choice among those making reservations for Durga Puja holidays. Many are also opting for trips within West Bengal.
The weather department of Himachal Pradesh has issued a red alert for seven districts after torrential rain disrupted life in north India and caused extensive damage to infrastructure. The 50-year-old bridge connecting Aut in Mandi district with Larji beside Sainj and Banjar has been affected. The IMD (Indian Meteorological Department) has issued a warning, advising people against travelling to hilly areas.
“In the past few years, north Indian states like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand have witnessed several natural disasters that have claimed many lives. Recently, the sinking of Joshimath and cracks on the buildings there still haunt people across the nation,” said Sourabh Jaiswal, owner of a travel agency in Kolkata.
“People who have been there and witnessed natural calamities have posted visuals on social media which have gone viral triggering fear among people. Also, recently several mountaineers and trekkers have died in Uttarakhand,” said Bimal Pandua, a manager of a travel agency.
Several places in north Bengal and Sikkim are attracting more tourists
Fewer bookings for Kashmir
Jammu and Kashmir was among the top destinations last year but the demand has gone down this year because of natural calamities.
The cost of a six-day Kashmir trip starts from Rs 16,000 per person and can go up to Rs 70,000. “People from across the country can directly reach Srinagar, but because of the situation in the neighbouring states, people are afraid. Even as the number of tourists is encouraging, it is less than last year,” said Affan Dar, owner of a homestay near Srinagar.
Tourists are opting for Goa, Kerala, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka
Toss between south & west
Nature's fury in the north is taking tourists to places like Bengaluru.and Ooty instead. “Holidayers look for safety and peace and want value for money. As a result, because of nature’s wrath, north Indian states have taken a back seat,” said an IRCTC official.
Tourists are opting for Goa, Kerala, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. Puja is still three months away, but those planning to go on usually book their tickets around this time. The mid-range packages are the most popular and they usually start from Rs 15,000 and can go up to Rs 35,000 per person for a seven-day trip.
Gain for Bengal
West Bengal tourism is witnessing a boost. Several places in north Bengal and Sikkim are attracting more tourists. “Those who prefer the hills and cannot travel to north Indian states are threading for Rishap, Lava, Kalimpong, Darjeeling and West Sikkim instead,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, of the eastern region, of the Travel Agents Federation of India.