New Delhi (NVI): After a pause of almost six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Darjeeling and Kalimpong, the popular hill stations in West Bengal, are now open for tourists.
The West Bengal government, on September 5, allowed hotels to resume operation in Darjeeling and Kalimpong, with adequate social distancing norms and maintaining hygiene as per COVID-19 protocols.
However, hotels in containment zones have not been permitted to resume operations yet.
In addition to this, President of Darjeeling Hotel Owners’ Association, Sangey Tshering Bhutia said, “Now that the hotels have opened, we are optimistic that tourists would start arriving and the tourism industry would roll back to normal in a phased manner. We are expecting tourists soon.”
Meanwhile, the neighbouring Himalayan state of Sikkim is also expected to open for tourists from October, according to the reports.
Sikkim was one of the first states to put a temporary ban on tourism from March 16 to contain spread of the virus.
The tourism department in Sikkim will allow domestic tourists with pre-booked or package tours to enter the state. They will have to produce COVID-19 negative certificates at the border check posts.
Every year lakhs of tourists throng the hills in the eastern and north-eastern parts of India and tourism is also the mainstay of several people who stay in these regions.
However, 15 per cent of the population in hills depend on tourism for their livelihoods. The industry, has been one of the worst sufferers due to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.