Change in European tourist’s travel patterns will badly hit festive and winter business in eastern Himalayan region

The steep swing in European tourist‘s travel patterns has started ringing alarm bells in the tourism arena of eastern Himalayan region that includes India‘s travel hotspots like Darjeeling or Sikkim.

We had many pre monsoon bookings cancelled with the onset of lockdown. But the bookings for premium festive and winter seasons remained unharmed. But now those are also being cancelled at a rapid rate,” said Pallab Bhattacharya, Director of a major travel agency ‘Nature Beyond’ that deals with mostly European travellers.

“The picture is almost the same for our direct clients in the B2C sector or guests coming through overseas travel companies in the B2B sector,” confirmed many other prominent travel operators.

“Going by the developing trend there, our important business partners like St Martine Travels in Rome, GT Network in Nuremberg or Melbourne based Hawthorn Travel and Tours are also diverting their guests. They are keeping the guests within Europe on short hauls avoiding transcontinental long hauls to Asia or Africa for the next almost a year. Eventually Indian destinations like Darjeeling or Sikkim have become major victims,” said Bhattacharya. The estimated loss of business for this is likely to be of around Rs 300 crore.

As estimated, with an average spending of around 250 USD a day per head, nearly 50,000 foreign tourists form the lion’s share of the total rupee volume business of this region worth around Rs 6 crore a day during peak seasons. “Europe is the largest contributor to the head count of foreign tourists and business volume in this region,” said veteran Travel Consultant Raj Basu.

Major inflow of foreign travellers begins in October and ends before Christmas. But bookings are done well in advance and ground level arrangements from our side also starts from June- informed Samrat Sanyal, President, Himalayan Hospitality and Tourism Development Network.

This shift in their travel trend has put operators here into a tough situation. But in the positive front, “Instead of asking for refund of their advance payment, most of them are keeping that with us for one year for their possible future travel plan in India,” said Bhattacharya.

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