JOY ROY CHOUDHURY – Kolkata
In its efforts to bring investments into the tourism and hospitality sectors to create world-class tourism infrastructure, the West Bengal government is inviting fresh investment proposals from the tourism and hospitality industries to set up ‘greenfield’ hotels, resorts and other accommodation options on the outskirts of Darjeeling.
“Bengal has immense potential as a world-class tourism destination. This is our state and we need to take it to new heights,” said Krishnendu Narayan Choudhury, the newly inducted tourism minister of West Bengal.
During a recent interaction with the members of the ‘Tourism Sub-committee’ of the Eastern Regional Chapter of Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Choudhury urged all the stakeholders to come together to put the state prominently on the tourism map of India. He also sought suggestions from them to increase the flow of inbound tourists into the state. “The tourism department is exploring possibilities of starting helicopter services in the Sunderbans and the hills,” he added.
Choudhury also outlined plans to increase safaris in the Dooars and highlight the state as a part of the Buddhist circuit with the excavation work of a Buddhist monastery in Malda in progress. The state tourism department is also mooting the idea of starting tours around residences or places of work of eminent personalities such as Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Mother Teresa.
He said that he was keen on launching the concept of ‘school tourism’ wherein schools could organise half-day or daylong excursions to various tourism and historical sites to increase student awareness about places of interest. He also stressed on medical tourism, involving non-resident Bengali associations/organisations in foreign countries and other states of India, by using them to promote Bengal, besides introducing tourist helplines, tourist police squads and training institutes for personnel involved in tourism activities.
Vikram Sen, principal secretary – Tourism, West Bengal said that the department has been putting much impetus on creation of tourism infrastructure in the state and is looking at ‘greenfield’ projects in the hospitality and tourism sectors. “The state government has already floated tenders inviting proposals for projects in North Bengal, Darjeeling and also Sajnekhali, Gangasagar and Digha,” he said.