KOLKATA April 2: Darjeeling, the queen of hill stations, continues to enchant foreign tourists. Many of the 54 overseas travel operators who visited the holiday destination in North Bengal recently have reverted to Confederation of Indian Industry(CII), expressing their keenness to promote Darjeeling among holidayers from their countries.
CII, along with state tourism department had taken them to Dooars, Darjeeling and Sikkim on a familiarization trip that was part of Destination East - an annual event by the chambers to brand and market the eastern and northeastern part of India as potential tourism destination. Thirteen foreign operators also explored the Sunderbans. Another 52 domestic sellers of tourist products also participated in the 'Mountains to Mangrove' programme.
"I was impressed with the whole itinerary, with Darjeeling especially, and have started organizing group tours to the Hills that will begin soon," Kuldip Gill wrote from Malaysia.
Denzil F Coelho of Eastman Travels in Lyon, France, too, felt Darjeeling and Dooars presented good opportunities for promotion among French tourists, but felt the need for better quality hotels. "Riverside Resort in Dooars was excellent but Cochrane Palace, Kurseong and Cedar Inn in Darjeeling were just about okay. We generally use more luxury hotels for our clients," he said.
Khadija Galant, the chief agent of Ushuaia Ethnika Voyages of Paris, felt Dooars-Darjeeling-Sikkim were an amazing combination. "It was my first time in India and I have fallen in love. I hope to come back again," said Galant. There were agents from Denmark, Switzerland, UK, US, Germany, Scotland, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Bangladesh and Nepal as well.
CII tourism sub-committee chairman Manab Pal said tea and Himalayas were an unbeatable combination that Darjeeling provided. "The Southern Alps in New Zealand is very pretty but has no history. The Himalayas, on the other hand, has a magnetic charm and is rich in history. Darjeeling has a strong Scottish connection that we have not explored yet.
Nowhere else in the world can you do a two-three day nature trail from Kalimpong to Peling through rhododendron and camellia forest," said Pal who owns Floatel.
Pointing to the need to cater for budget tourists, Pal said the state needed to provide decent roads, stable power, liveable hotels that offered neat rooms, clean toilets and hygienic food. "Tourists don't need or expect five-star facilities everywhere. What they need is a sense of comfort and assurance that they will not take ill. Developing a product whereby the itinerary is clearly laid out helps. We have done that this year through the 1,700-plus business-to-business meets," he said.