After quake, tour operators get calls from anxious tourists

September 20th, 2011 - 8:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Sep 20 (IANS) After Sunday’s earthquake, tour operators have been receiving hundreds of anxious calls about the conditions in Darjeeling and Sikkim from tourists who have done advance booking for the Durga Puja season.

However, post-quake, there have been only a few tour cancellations so far.

While at least 50 people have died in Sikkim, the death count in north Bengal now is 12 with over 200 injured following the 6.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked large parts of northern and eastern India, officials said Monday.

“There is no such impact right now because during this season there are very few tourists in the region. There are hardly two or three cancellations after this quake,” said Raj Basu, chairman, Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators Association (EHTTOA).

Basu said the rush of tourists for Durga Puja is scheduled to start Sep 28. The five-day Durga puja begins Oct 2, ushering in the festive season in eastern India.

“Most of the bookings for the Durga Puja season are intact though we are receiving calls from anxious tourists who are enquiring about the situation in Sikkim and Darjeeling,” said Basu.

Many buildings developed cracks and the neighbouring Himalayan state of Sikkim was cut off from north Bengal by landslides triggered by the tremors in Darjeeling’s Kalimpong and Kurseong hill sub-divisions.

“It is a wait and watch situation for tour operators and the tourists. Most of the hotels in Darjeeling area and other parts are fully booked for the Puja season. We are hoping that everything will be fine in a few days,” said Anil Punjabi, east zone chairman of the Travel Agents Federation of India.

Punjabi said all facilities have been provided to tourists held up in Gangtok.

The National Highway 31-A — considered the lifeline of Sikkim — was opened Tuesday morning after it remained blocked due to landslides since Sunday evening.

Other tour and hotel operators are also keeping their fingers crossed and say that everything now depends on the “amount of time” needed to restore normal life in the hills.

“We have not registered a single cancellation yet. But we are receiving hundreds of enquiries everyday,” said an official of Nature Beyond, a travel and tour agency.

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