Pitch for hill tourism boost
– Travel industry seeks immigration facility at Pashupatinagar for foreigners
Tourism stakeholders in India and Nepal are raising the pitch for an immigration centre at Pashupatinagar to ensure seamless travel for foreigners between the Darjeeling hills and the Himalayan country.
At present, a foreigner – Indian and Nepal nationals don’t need visas to travel to each other’s country – has to get immigration clearance at Kakarvitta (in Nepal) to enter the hills from Nepal and vice versa. That means, foreigners have to travel for seven hours between Darjeeling town and Bhadrapur airport in Nepal.
Once a foreigner enters India through Kakarvitta, he/she needs to reach Siliguri, which is 45km away, and travel up to Darjeeling. But Pashupatinagar is just 25km from Darjeeling town and if an immigration centre is set up at the check-post there, the travel time between Bhadrapur and here would come down to three hours.
“An immigration centre at Pashupatinagar will ensure seamless travel which is most important for any traveller. I have already taken up the matter with the cousul general of Nepal, based in Calcutta,” Darjeeling MLA Trilok Dewan said at an interactive session here yesterday evening. It was organised by the Nepal Tourism Board and Nepal’s ministry of culture, tourism and civil aviation, along with the stakeholders of Darjeeling tourism industry.
Around 30,000 foreigners visit the Darjeeling hills annually and most of them go to Nepal.
The demand for the immigration clearance at Pashupatinagar has come at a time Nepal is spearheading a campaign to revive the tourism industry that was hit hard by the April 25 earthquake. The ripples of the quake were also felt in Darjeeling as many foreign clients cancelled bookings for the Nepal-Darjeeling-Sikkim-Bhutan circuit for 2016.
“The Nepal government has started an aggressive marketing campaign soon after the quake shook the county. We did promotional campaigns in China, Hong Kong and in many Indian cities like Pune and Mumbai,” said Surya Thapaliya, senior officer, Nepal Tourism Board.
Nepal receives around 15 lakh tourists annually.
Rajendra Kumar Shrestha, chief accounts officer of the department of tourism in Nepal, said the quake had affected only 14 of 75 districts in the country. “Although, very old structures have been damaged, many tourist points are unaffected. For example, of the eight national parks in Nepal, only Langtang is closed right now,” he said.
The tour operators have said the focus of the campaign is three eastern districts in Nepal.
“We are promoting three eastern Nepal districts, Sunsari (Dharan), Illam and Taplagung under the Green East campaign so that those visiting Darjeeling can also travel to Nepal. Nepal is a virgin tourist destination and has a lot to offer, right from water rafting to paragliding, all through 12 months,” said Basu Dev Baral, a tour operator based in Dharan, Nepal.
Source – TT