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Darjeeling tourism seeing better days

Darjeeling Toy Train or Himalayan Railway
A year after the devastating earthquake in Nepal, the Darjeeling tourism scene appears positive as this year’s peak season has ushered in visitors, both locals and foreigners, in scores.
Last year’s quake had shaken Darjeeling too and its tourism sector experienced a steady slump. As repeated tremors were felt throughout the region, hotel bookings saw wholesale cancellations and almost every tourist retreated to the plains. According to Pradip Lama, secretary, Darjeeling Association of Travel Agents (DUTA), most tourists frequenting the Darjeeling-Sikkim-Nepal circuit and primarily hailing from Odhisa, Maharashtra and Gujarat had had to cancel their bookings as fears of impending tremors persisted.
The peak tourism season in Darjeeling begins from the second week of April and continues well into the third week of June. Tourist footfalls this year have surged to the highest compared to the last three to four years. Most hotels are booked to their capacity, and are confident of enjoying 70-80 per cent occupancy even after the third week of June. Lama says it is getting difficult for him to provide vehicles at subsidised government rates, now that demand for such vehicles is at its maximum.
At the premier Darjeeling Planters’ Club, all the rooms have been booked for the entire month of June. According to an employee there, room bookings at the Club did see a decline after the earthquake, but gradually picked up pace in June-July. This year, despite incessant rains and the recent elections appearing to play spoilsport, there has been a rise of 25-30 per cent in bookings.
The owners at Chandulals, a shawl store near Chowrasta that mainly depends upon tourists, are all smiles. According to them, shawls are being bought on a mass scale this year as opposed to last year.
Further, many tourists have decided to extend their stay in Darjeeling ever since most parts of north Sikkim became inaccessible following the collapse of the Iron Bridge at Rel Khola.(EOI)

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