This Durga Puja, Bengalis are not thinking local, rather they are going global. Puja vacations are often the most preferred time for Bengalis to travel. This year, travel agents say that foreign shores are attracting maximum travellers from Bengal.
With Kashmir burning after the Uri attack and tourists cancelling bookings, city travellers are increasingly booking foreign holidays to spend their long puja vacations.
With Bangkok, Thailand, Pattaya and Singapore being the most-sought after destinations closer home, travel agents in Kolkata have also received a healthy number of bookings for places like Malaysia, Cambodia, Kenya, Hong Kong and Spain.
Chandramouli Thakur of Miles Tourism informs that during puja, several travel agencies give attractive offers, which also help tourists plan a foreign trip. “This has been a trend for a few years now. Bangkok, Krabi, Thailand and Singapore are the most favoured international destinations. Those who love wildlife are visiting Kenya (Maasai Mara, Mombasa) and Tanzania,” he says.
Spain, as a destination saw a huge rise in demand after the release of Zoya Akhtar’s Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara. Five years on, Barcelona, Madrid, Ibiza and Seville continue to attract city tourists. Ananda Majumdar of Eureka Travels & Tours says Bengalis are heading to Spain in large numbers this year. “Spain is a great location which combines modernity and tradition. Also, you get great food there,” he says.
Europe has always been a must visit place on the list of city tourists. Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Rome and Italy are the top tourist spots. Paris is one of the most romantic cities in the world and has always been dear to city travellers. But just like Kashmir, Paris too is not being favoured by tourists because of the frequent terror attacks.
Travel Agents’ Federation of India chairman (east) Anil Punjabi says that most of the bookings for puja holidays were complete by June. “Even last year, we received heavy bookings in August, but this year by the month of June, tourists from Bengal had booked their dates and places. Apart from Bangkok, Malaysia and Singapore, we have received bookings for Hong Kong and Macau,” he says.
Saswati Roy of Wandervogel Adventures informs Kolkatans are becoming increasingly interested in travelling to lesser known destinations. Even a few years ago, Russia, Vietnam and Cambodia, were not on the list of city travellers. That’s not the case this time. “Vietnam’s natural beauty, historical attractions and temples attract a lot of footfall from Kolkata. Cambodia attracts crowds for its amazing temples and architecture. Angkor Wat is one of the top tourist attractions in Cambodia,” she says.
Those who had to cancel their Kashmir bookings and are not heading abroad, are heading to Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Kerala. Subho Chakraborty, 35, had booked a Kashmir trip four months ago. However, he had to cancel the hotel booking in Kashmir due to Uri attack. On Ashtami, he and his family of four are leaving for Shimla, Sarahan, Sangal, Chitku and Kalpa. “We had to suffer financial losses since we had booked hotels in Kashmir. But we wanted to go on a holiday. Our train tickets for Delhi have been booked, so we had to scout locations where we could travel from Delhi. Shimla seemed to be a good option. I am told there will be heavy rush in Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh,” he says.
Pradip Chowdhury of Chowdhury Tour & Travels says he had to cancel a number of bookings for Kashmir. However, they immediately booked the tourists for Rajasthan and Kumaon.
Samir Sarkar of Travel Chhuti Chhuti reveals that bookings for places such as Shimla, Sundarbans and Gangtok were closed four months ago. Kolkatans are also travelling to Bhutan, Ooty, Coorg and Nepal. Gangtok, Pelling and Darjeeling are the most preferred destinations among Bengali tourists. So, this year too, these places have received heavy bookings. Puri, Digha and Mandarmoni — the eternal favourites — continue to give competition. So, if you have not booked till now and are still trying to figure out where you can go, we advice you move quickly. Time’s running out.