City-based private tour operators said that people who had booked packaged tours to the Valley well in advance during the coming Durga Puja holidays have cancelled them owing to the recent floods there.
"Packaged tours to Kashmir are always in demand and people mostly book tickets during the Pujas. In fact this year too we had almost 80 per cent booking done. But the recent floods in Kashmir have spoiled everything. Since then people have been cancelling bookings for Kashmir," a spokesman for Continental Travels said.
In fact, people are heading to Shimla, Nainital, Dehradun as an alternate option of Kashmir. The worst floods to hit Jammu and Kashmir in over a century have left nearly 300 people dead, besides causing widespread devastation. Other tour operators like Akanta Apan Tours and Unique Holidays in the city also faced cancellation of bookings.
According to these tour operators, the tourists are this time rooting for Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim instead of Kashmir. Bookings for packaged tours to Vizag, Araku Valley, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also in high demand.
"At least 30 per cent people are heading towards south India. And this trend is on the rise. Rajasthan is also another place where Bengalis are visiting mostly," Akanta Apan Tours said.
For holiday destinations in West Bengal, Darjeeling, this year is the most preferred place for tourists during this festive season. Operators attribute it to the peaceful situation of Darjeeling for this spurt of tourists this time. "Darjeeling is fully booked and we have stopped taking any bookings as most of the hotels there are fully occupied. Even the guest houses, lodges and other accommodations are 100 per cent full," a West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation Limited (WBTDC) official said.
Besides, Darjeeling, the Dooars, Jaldapara, Murti in Jalpaiguri district, have been the other tourist hotspots during this period. In the plains, packaged tours for the Sundarbans, Digha, Shantiniketan Diamond Harbour, Shankarpur, Bakkhali, Tejpur are sold out, he said.
According to the WBTDC official, most people visited the office to book for Darjeeling hotels. And when they do not get accommodations there, they opted for Kalimpong and Dooars. Some settled for Gangtok also.
In fact, people from outside the state have also booked hotels in Darjeeling and other spots. Bookings for WBTDC accommodations started 120 days ahead of the holidays.
In fact options for online bookings have boosted the tourism sector, he claimed. "Online bookings have helped people to organise their travel and it has been a trend for the last few years that people are managing tours on their own curtailing down costs and only going in for hotel bookings with us," the WBTDC official said.