Taxi rule for tourists

Kalimpong, April 25: From Monday, tourists to Kalimpong will have to hire local taxis to visit the various sites in and around town, paying fixed rates that are higher than the fares offered by some hotels here.

The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha-affiliated taxi-owners and drivers’ association has initiated the move to safeguard its members’ business interests.

“Out-station vehicles can ferry tourists to the town, but cannot take them on sight-seeing trips,” said T. D. Bhutia, the president of the Janmukti Morcha Chalak Mahasangh. He added that the decision was taken after discussing the matter with other tourism stakeholders like travel agents and hotel owners.

Bhutia said vehicles would charge between Rs 600 and Rs 800 for each trip covering 11 tourist points between Durpin and Deolo. “The move is also aimed at ensuring uniform rates. Earlier, we were often accused of short-changing tourists because some hotels used to charge sight-seeing fares that were lower than the market rate,” he added.

Some hotel owners said the new arrangement would not make much difference to them. “We mostly hired local taxis for our guests anyway,” said Sanjogita Subba, the president of Hotel and Restaurant Owners’ Association of Kalimpong.

Others, however, disagreed. “Hotels who make their own arrangements for their guests usually charge them around Rs 500 for the trip,” said a source.

Tour operators in Siliguri also appeared surprised.

“Look, the good thing about Kalimpong was that tourists could go in sight-seeing trips on vehicles of their choice. The new decision taken midway through the tourist season will not only inconvenience them, but also add to their travel costs,” said Samrat Sanyal, the secretary of the Eastern Himalayan Travel and Tour Operators’ Association, over the phone from Siliguri.

Sanyal added that it would have been much better if all stakeholders had discussed the issue at the end of the current tourist season before arriving at a decision.

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