Covid: Tourism stakeholders seek survival plan from government
The state’s decision to shut all tourist spots across Bengal has prompted stakeholders of the tourism industry to try and draw the government’s attention to their plight.
Some have proposed that the state should allow entry of tourists up to 50 per cent capacity in these sites, others have underscored the need for a comprehensive set of guidelines which can be followed to keep the industry alive.
“We appeal to the state government to keep tourist spots open with a 50 per cent capacity rider, as has been cited for cinema halls, multiplexes and shopping malls. This would bring at least some relief for the industry that has taken a beating these past two years. The decision to close down these spots has already hit the sector as is evident from rising cancellations (of trips and hotel bookings),” said Sandipan Ghosh, general secretary, Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association.
Since Monday, all tourist spots in Bengal are shut according to the new restrictions. Though destinations like Darjeeling and Dooars are open, those in the tourism industry doubt how many tourists would turn up if cannot visit popular spots in the hills or take a car safari to the reserve forests.
The EHTTOA, Ghosh said, will submit memorandums to the chief minister, through the district magistrates of five north Bengal districts.
“The state and other agencies which sell entry tickets to these spots have data on the daily turnout of tourist spots. They can easily regulate the entry of tourists or allow half the tourists in a day so that Covid protocol is followed,” added Ghosh.
Representatives of the Himalayan Hospitality and Tourism Development Network, another association that represents travel industry of this region, said the state should moot a guideline so that the industry does not turn dormant.
“The industry should not shut but remain open for lakhs of people who make their living out of it. The state can consult experts and come up with a set of guidelines for the industry so that the risk of contamination can be brought down. We are trying to meet the state tourism minister to tell him about the crisis in the sector,” said Samrat Sanyal, general secretary, HHTDN.
The only silver lining in this region is that Sikkim has not yet imposed any restrictions on tourist spots so far. “Tourists who were supposed to visit both Darjeeling and Sikkim are arriving here and heading for Sikkim,” said Debasish Maitra, the EHTTOA president.