Eastern Himalayas Travel & Tour Operators’ Association (EHTTOA) has joined hands with both regional and national associations to revive tourism in eastern India, promoting domestic tourism to North Bengal and the Eastern Himalayan region. It has also tied up with key associations to promote cross-border tourism with Bangladesh.
Tourism stakeholders in West Bengal have joined hands in a bid to revive the industry in the region. EHTTOA, Himalayan hospitality associations and Travel Agents Association of Bengal (TAAB) have tied up to bring to the fore issues that the region’s tourism industry is currently dealing with.
Speaking on the subject is, Sandipan Ghosh, General Secretary, EHTTOA, who says, “Most of our members are facing issues with refunds and cancellations because people had paid in January-February for travel in April-May-June. Now they are asking for refunds and most of the tour operators are not able to pay the money back, as most of it has been exhausted during the crisis. Hence, we created a common cancellation policy so that people are not inconvenienced and members can create a credit shell for one year, which will be valid from date of travel and not from date of booking. This would allow people to avail the benefits and their money will not be waived off. They can also utilise the advance payments they have made and we, as tour operators, also don’t have any problem in refunds but adjusting it with future tours.”
Ghosh claims that they have also reached out to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee, and have put in a few points to be considered in line with what FAITH has been doing nationally. “We have also sought appointment with the CM and have requested her to take certain measures as well as to create a taskforce so that tourism can be taken forward in Bengal, because unlike most other places, many parts of North Bengal are not that affected by COVID-19. Hence, we can start with domestic and cross-border tourism as soon as things are a little bit back in shape. We have also asked for waiver of some taxes and fees, including road tax, licensing fee and other periodic payments that come under the domain of the state government, he says.”
In fact, Ghosh adds that they have also shared promotional ideas. “Many resorts in Doars, Kalimpong and Darjeeling opened from July 1, while Sikkim is still closed. We have decided to make promotional videos for tourists and are trying to ask West Bengal Tourism to also put their branding on it, to bring in a sense of authenticity. The idea is to portray the region as safe to travel in terms of local people supporting tourists and also in terms of hygiene and sanitisation. We are also trying to get bytes from local hoteliers on how they have been sanitising their properties, so that people are convinced and consider the region as a safe destination for travel. We have made this joint platform because as a single association, we thought our voices may not be heard properly,” he claims. EHTTOA is already in touch with the regional director and minister of tourism of the state. In addition, the Association is collaborating with national associations. “Also, since the prospects of M!CE tourism in this region are expanding, we are in talks with NIMA,” Ghosh says.