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26 Apr 2018

Poll delay hits tourism in Dooars

NH31 passes through the Gorumara National Park, one of the prominent tourist destinations in the Dooars
TT, Jalpaiguri: The uncertainty over the schedule of panchayat elections has also taken its toll on tourism in the Dooars as only a few are visiting the region during the current summer.
Tourism stakeholders said there was a drop in the tourist footfall as people from elsewhere in Bengal didn't want to visit the Dooars in the thick of the electioneering.
"We have over 50 private resorts in Lataguri (the prominent destination in western Dooars). Usually, during the summer season, the average rate of occupancy is at least 90 per cent or so. But in the current season, the occupancy rate has declined to 20 per cent or so," said Dibyendu Deb, the secretary of the Lataguri Resort Owners' Welfare Association.
A resort owner based at Jayanti in the eastern Dooars pointed out that tourism in the region had suffered to some extent last year because of the agitation in the hills.
"This is because a considerable section of tourists visits Darjeeling and the Dooars together. Sometimes, even Sikkim features in their itinerary. Due to the agitation and strike, many of them cancelled trips. Like the hills, we were expecting a good inflow in the summer months this year but as the dates of panchayat elections are yet to be fixed, most people are cancelling or altering their travel plans," he said.
Every year, several tourists turn up in the Dooars after the secondary and higher secondary exams are over.
"But this year, there was hardly any booking for April. The inflow rises in May and continues till June but if the dates of rural polls are not announced, it is unlikely that the occupancy rate will increase," said Deb.
The stakeholders said first of all, tourists travelling in families and groups were disinclined to make trips during the election season.
"Considering the regular incidents of violence across the state, it would make them more cautious. In the hills, however, there is no such problem as panchayat elections will not be held in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts," said a tour operator.
Moreover, tourists from other districts of Bengal include a good number of state government employees.
"As the dates have not been announced, they are in a fix. Most of them have to join duties in booths, counting centres and other places and also need to take training before the election. Naturally, they cannot plan a trip," added the tour operator.
Another reason that makes tourists turn away from the Dooars is the shortage of vehicles.
"Several vehicles are requisitioned by the administration for election duty. This makes tourists change their plans as they do not want to face inconvenience due to shortage of vehicles," said Biplab Dey, joint secretary, Dooars Tourism Development Forum.

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