Tourism agents have demanded formulation of guidelines to sensitize tourists to the perils of high altitude travel during the winter like sickness, snowfall and stopping drivers from planning quick itineraries for a fast buck. The demand was discussed at the recent Bengal Travel Mart in the wake of reports that hundreds of tourists were left stranded and many fell ill following snowfalls during the current winter in Sikkim. Tourist footfall has risen because of frequent snowfall in Sikkim and in many parts of the Darjeeling hills, including Tiger Hill and Sandakphu.
The travel agents feel the thrill of the chill at hilltops shouldn’t come at a cost. Thousands of tourists have gone to the high reaches of Darjeeling and Sikkim in winter to enjoy snowfall. On a number of occasions, they were stuck in Sikkim and had to be rescued by the Indian Army. Even at Sandakphu, some tourists were stranded. Many fell sick also due to inclement weather. According to the tour agents, it was fortunate there were no casualties though tourists had to spend in sub-zero temperatures. Both the Bengal and Sikkim governments need to formulate guidelines for tourists. It will help tourists travel safely in extreme cold weather conditions.
Many tourists make a dash for the mountains to enjoy the snow and eventually fall ill because of a lack of acclimatization. They don’t know the vagaries of nature. A transporter in Siliguri said the guidelines should cover drivers. The guideline should mention the dos and don’ts for drivers also. Instead of carrying tourists to a height of 11,000ft, the drivers should make them understand the consequences. Tourists should be told that it is risky to drive vehicles in areas hit by snow. The guidelines will prevent drivers from undertaking risky rides for more earnings, A representative of the Travel Agents’ Association of Sikkim said there were such guidelines for mountaineers but not for tourists in the Himalayan state.