Mamata hill trip fires tourism revival hope

The New Jalpaiguri station, one of the prominent transit points for tourists visiting north Bengal

Siliguri: Mamata Banerjee's hill visit and her emphasis on peace and unity will fuel the revival of tourism in the Darjeeling hills, industry stakeholders believe.

The chief minister has returned to the hills after June last year when violence had erupted soon after she held a cabinet meeting of the state cabinet at the Raj Bhavan in Darjeeling.

In the shutdown that followed the violence - over the alleged imposition of Bengali in hill schools - the tourism industry was roiled. Even after the strike was withdrawn last September, visitor flow was a trickle.

The optimism that the tide will turn has been voiced by the organisers of the third edition of the Bengal Travel Mart (BTM), to be hosted by the state in Siliguri from February 16 to 18.

According to them, the message this time will be that "all is well" in Darjeeling. "The heads of national level associations of tourism industry, along with representatives of prominent travel houses which send tourists to Darjeeling and even some delegates from abroad will attend the event," said Sandipan Ghosh, general secretary, Eastern Himalaya Travel & Tour Operators' Association (EHTTOA).

"We want to take the opportunity and win back their confidence so that Darjeeling hills get back their usual flow of tourists this summer and later," Ghosh added.

Debashis Maitra, the president of the association, echoed the view. "The chief minister's visit to the hills, only 10 days ahead of the BTM, is a major boost for all those associated with travel trade. We are confident it will help us drive home the point that Darjeeling is ready to welcome tourists and all is well in the hills."


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