JHAPA, July 26: The ongoing Gorkhaland movement in Darjeeling has taken toll on tourism activities in eastern Nepal.
According to local hoteliers, the number of Indian tourists has fallen drastically after agitation began in Darjeeling. Officials of District Travel Association (DTA), Jhapa, all travel entrepreneurs have seen slump in their business.
There are around 100 travel agencies in the district, according to DTA Jhapa.
“Many Indian tourists have canceled their bookings,” Uday Man Shrestha, managing director of Kakarbhitta-based Panama Tours and Travels, told Republica. “Gorkhaland movement has directly affected tourism business in the eastern region. Tourist arrival is falling, and cancellation rate is very high.”
Most of the travel agencies and hotels in Jhapa are dependent on Indian tourists. Third country tourists, who enter the country through Kakarbhitta, do not stay in the district for long.
According to local travel agents, eastern Nepal had been getting tourists from Naxalbari, Siliguri, Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Mirik, Sikkim and Kolkata as well as from Gujarat and Mumbai, among others. However, with the Gorkhaland movement expanding, the number of tourists coming from Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong, among others, has fallen significantly.
The agitation in Darjeeling has also affected the number of Nepalis traveling to Sikkim, Darjeeling and other nearby Indian towns.
Bijay Subedi, the owner of SMS World Tours and Travel, Mechinagar, also said that the Darjeeling movement has affected flow of Indian tourists to Nepal. According to him, total business has plunged by nearly 80 percent.
Ram Bahadur Tamang, general secretary of Regional Hotel Entrepreneurs Association, Mechinagar, echoed with Subedi, and added that tourism agitation in Darjeeling has affected tourism in eastern Nepal. “We are getting only few Indian visitors. Also, transport entrepreneurs are facing problem to operate their vehicles in Siliguri, Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong, Mirik and Sikkim, among others,” he added.
Meanwhile, the government efforts to bring Chinese tourists by waiving off visa fee have also not yielded expected results. According to Immigration Office, Kakarbhitta, only 271 Chinese tourists entered Nepal through the eastern border point of Kakarbhitta in the last fiscal year.
According to the office, 468 Chinese tourists had entered the country through Kakarbhitta entry point in 2015.