Upward tourist inflow to Bhutan brings positive air for Indian operators in East Himalayan circuits
SILIGURI: After the spell of downward trend of tourists inflow following large scale proliferation of Deadly disease Encephalitis in northern West Bengal, tourism entrepreneurs operating in the region and adjoining Bhutan, Sikkim or Nepal circuits are now expecting brighter festive season business. Upward trend in inflow to Bhutan is adding confidence to the hope for the tourism dependent economy of the region.
Around 45% of the domestic tourists visit Darjeeling during festive season from end August to Mid November contributing a huge share to Rs 400 crore worth annual tourism business of the region - explained Mr. R Basu, veteran travel advisor and tour operator.
The encephalitis epidemic prevailing in the region has started diverting inbound tourists to different other destination of the country.
“As per rough estimation, any major trouble in festive season tourism in this Eastern Himalayan region may cause loss of business worth over Rs 150 crore,” said Mr. Tapas Roy, Secretary Eastern Himalayan Tour and Travel Operators Association (EHTTOA). Naturally, “The downward trend started ringing alarm bell. But the situation appears to be taking a positive turn now,” he said.
The inflow to tourists to Bhutan has become a confidence builder. Although considered as a lean season, May 2014 recorded the highest number of regional tourists this year, with 9,944 arrivals, as recorded by Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB). It corroborates to the consistent growth of annual inflow to the Himalayan country from 28 thousand in 2010, to 63 thousand in 2013.
Major infrastructure development projects in Bhutan including upcoming domestic airport at Galiphu or capacity augmentation at Paro Airport are expected to give further boost to the growth in long term basis too.
“At least 40% of the travelers arriving any place in eastern Himalayan region comprising circles of Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal or NE India combine up at least two circles. Naturally, growth in inflow to any place brings positive wave for the others too,” explained Mr. S. Sanyal, former Secreatary EHTTOA and an important tourism entrepreneur. In addition, almost all tourists from India, the largest contributor to Bhutan’s inbound regional tourist footfall, travel to the Himalayan country through Indian operators.
“The overall booking pattern for Darjeeling, Sikkim or Northern West Bengal jungle based destinations has started showing a definite positive turn now. Hopefully, that will continue for the entire festive season,” said Mr. Basu.