As summer’s oppressive heat gives way to a mellow autumn and the fragrance of the night jasmine floats in the air, Jharkhand is witnessing a sudden surge in tourist footfall during the festive season, officials and tour operators have said.
Though the state had been a preferred destination for short-stay tourists earlier, the past two years had seen a sharp fall in their number mainly due to the cyclones Phailin and Hudhud which had hit these parts around puja.
Official sources said that a relatively better law and order situation, the result of a crackdown on Maoist outfits, is also contributing to the higher number of visitors.
Tour and travel operators said they have received bookings from both inbound and outbound tourists with visitors lining up trips to Netarhat and Betla national parks and Deoghar, a famous Hindu pilgrimage.
Jharkhand tourists have shown interest for hill stations like Kullu, Manali, and Darjeeling besides religious destinations like Puri this Durga Puja, tour operators said.
“Tourists response is overwhelming this puja compared to last few years. We have additional 95 bookings for Netarhat and Betla national park while all 11 hotels and government rest houses are packed,” said Amardeep Sahay of a Ranchi-based tour operator.
He said though foreign tourists were as usual low but inflow of tourists from other states of the country, mainly West Bengal, is good.
“Bengal’s people are known for short tours. Vacation of this Durga Puja suits their tour plan this year, as working class is getting not less than six holidays,” Sahay said.
In view of the rush, Jharkhand tourism development corporation (JTDC) has activated their information centre at Ranchi railway station and airport to facilitate the tourists.
“We are also providing booking facilities besides providing vehicles for local tour. Rush is huge for Deoghar, Rajrappa, Udhwa bird sanctuary, Dalma forest and Netarhat,” JTDC managing director Sunil Kumar said.
Kumar finds reason for increasing tourists for three reasons-senses of security, facilities and good weather.
“Jharkhand has now become safe. We have also increased facilities in tourist locations like drinking water toilet and giving priority to cleanliness. Most important is the weather,” he said.
For many tourists, the main attraction is the state’s natural beauty. “Jharkhand is blessed with natural beauty. So we decided to spend at least two days in Jharkhand, away from the hustle-bustle of Kolkata during Durga Puja,” said Alpana Ganguli, who visited Hundru and Johna falls on Tuesday morning. She, however, said that accommodation facilities are missing near the falls area.
Tourism officials said last year bookings were almost 50% less than this year. Though figures for the puja visitors is not available, officials said the annual inflow of tourist last financial year was 3.26 crore in Jharkhand.