West Ben­gal Chief Min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee

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State Tourism de­part­ment has de­cided to start var­i­ous de­gree and diploma cour­ses on tourism and ho­tel man­age­ment at var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions across the state, state Tourism min­is­ter Goutam Deb said in the Assem­bly on Wed­nes­day. Deb said that var­i­ous skill de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes would be started in around 6-7 places in the state. North Ben­gal Univer­sity would soon start de­gree and diploma cour­ses on tourism and ho­tel man­age­ment. Around 24 crore has been al­lot­ted by the state govern­ment to set up an in­sti­tute at Dur­ga­pur which would be made oper­a­tional from July this year. Var­i­ous cour­ses would also be in­tro­duced at Ga­joldoba and Mid­na­pore along with other places. The min­is­ter also said that his de­part­ment has seen an in­crease in tourist in­flux in var­i­ous places as his de­part­ment has re­vamped the infrastructure of var­i­ous tourist desti­na­tions. Point­ing fin­gers at the Left Front govern­ment, Deb said that due to the col­lapse of law and or­der sit­u­a­tion in the Hills and Jan­galma­hal ar­eas, peo­ple had lost in­ter­est in vis­it­ing var­i­ous spots. The present govern­ment has re­stored peace in the ar­eas by gain­ing the con­fi­dence of peo­ple. The state govern­ment has im­mensely con­trib­uted to build­ing up road con­nec­tiv­ity through­out the state as tourism of a state can­not be de­vel­oped if the con­di­tions of the roads are poor. Hence, the

present govern­ment has de­vel­oped road infrastructure that had also con­trib­uted to the in­flux of tourists in the state. Deb also men­tioned that his de­part­ment has given a great thrust on the home­s­tays in North Ben­gal which has also been the fo­cus area of the Chief Min­is­ter. Af­ter com­ing to power, Chief Min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee has laid great stress on pro­mot­ing Ben­gal as one of the most ac­cepted tourist des­ti­na­tion in the coun­try.

West Ben­gal to de­velop amenity cen­tres to at­tract tourists

With more than 14 lakh for­eign tourists vis­it­ing last year, Ben­gal is one of the top five for­eign desti­na­tions in the coun­try. The state govern­ment is mak­ing elab­o­rate ar­range­ments to de­velop its tourism infrastructure. As part of this, the state tourism de­part­ment will be set­ting up Tourist Amenity Cen­tres (TAC) within the state as well as along the na­tional high­ways pass­ing through Ben­gal to en­sure has­sle-free jour­neys for both do­mes­tic and for­eign trav­ellers. Ac­cord­ing to a se­nior of­fi­cial of West Ben­gal Tourism De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion Lim­ited (WBTDCL), the cen­tres will be built along the high­ways, where tourists can com­fort­ably rest and eat. "Each TAC will have a cafe­te­ria, a med­i­cal store and a shop with es­sen­tial com­modi­ties. They will have a separate ramp for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, a feed­ing room for ba­bies and separate toi­lets for men and women," said the of­fi­cial. All zones will also have free WiFi and park­ing space. Ini­tially, the state govern­ment plans to de­velop seven such cen­tres — four along the Kolkata-Bakkhali route in South 24-Par­ganas and three along the Ko­laghat-Digha route. The de­part­ment is ne­go­ti­at­ing with ma­jor oil com­pa­nies to help de­velop the TACs. "We have been seek­ing lands ad­ja­cent to the petrol pumps lo­cated on the high­ways for the cen­tres. They will be de­vel­oped un­der the pub­licpri­vate part­ner­ship model. WBTDCL will take up the de­vel­op­ment work on a pri­or­ity ba­sis. Each cen­tre will cost around 1.5 crore," the of­fi­cial added. Ac­cord­ing to a min­istry of tourism re­port, the State hosted 6.4 per cent for­eign tourists and 4.9 per cent do­mes­tic ones. In 2016, of the 2.06 crore for­eign tourists who vis­ited In­dia, 14.8 lakh vis­ited Ben­gal. Among the top five states, Tamil Nadu has drawn 20.1 per cent for­eign tourists fol­lowed by Ma­ha­rash­tra, Ut­tar Pradesh, Delhi and West Ben­gal. Re­cently, a short film called 'Beau­ti­ful Ben­gal' fea­tur­ing Shah Rukh Khan was re­leased to pro­mote Ben­gal tourism. The tourism de­part­ment has launched a pro­mo­tional cam­paign to at­tract for­eign tourists dur­ing Durga Puja. Mean­while, the state govern­ment plans to de­velop eco-tourism in Jharkhali of Sun­der­bans and Ga­joldoba tourism hub in Dooars. A her­itage tram ride has been in­tro­duced in the city.

West Ben­gal budget 2017-18: State bets big on tourism

From rop­ing in ac­tor Shah Rukh Khan to hard­sell tourism in the state, to repack­ag­ing clas­sic Ben­gali sweets for the in­ter­na­tional market, the state govern­ment is do­ing all it can to make the vir­tu­ally un­tapped tourism po­ten­tial of the state into a vi­able rev­enue source. Over the years, this has re­flected in the TMC govern­ment’s bud­gets, with the lat­est budget, present on Fri­day, al­lo­cat­ing `335 crore to the sec­tor – an al­most 30-fold in­crease from the Left Front govern­ment’s last budget in 2010’11.

Com­pared to 2016-17, when the de­part­ment re­ceived `295 crore, the al­lo­ca­tion has in­creased only by 13 per cent. But as one of­fi­cial put it, “The fact is that a lot of in­vest­ment has hap­pened in the last few years. This is be­cause we’ve been fo­cus­ing on cre­at­ing the infrastructure and for­mu­lat­ing schemes. Now the re­ally dif­fi­cult part be­gins – get­ting tourists to come and stay.” “The in­flow of tourists is in­creas­ing ev­ery year. That is why the state needs to draw an ag­gres­sive cam­paign plan to at­tract more tourists and com­pete with other states,” said Sam­rat Sanyal, the ex­ec­u­tive pres­i­dent of the East­ern Hi­malaya Travel & Tour Op­er­a­tors’ As­so­ci­a­tion. Ear­lier, the state govern­ment had launched a web­site — http://www. ben­gal­week­end.com — that listed 44 such places across 20 dis­tricts of the state and plans to add more desti­na­tions soon. State Tourism Min­is­ter Gau­tam Deb said, “Tourists in­clined to visit our state for a short pe­riod may find this web­site in­ter­est­ing and help­ful. It will add value to tourism-re­lated fa­cil­i­ties and in­crease in­ter­est of tourists to visit these places.” In par­tic­u­lar, Deb and his min­istry have been em­pha­sis­ing on on home­s­tay and com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment in dif­fer­ent parts of the state, af­ter such ef­forts reaped rich div­i­dends for both the tourists and lo­cal peo­ple in the forests of Dooars in the foothills of Hi­malayas and in dif­fer­ent un­known desti­na­tions of the Dar­jeel­ing Hills. The am­bi­tious ‘Home­s­tay Pol­icy’ also aims to boost the state’s mi­cro and small en­trepreneurs (MSEs) by en­gag­ing the lo­cal work force, while fa­cil­i­tat­ing mid­dle class tourism in the state’s tourism hotspots said of­fi­cials. Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials, tourism – the state hopes – will prove to be a dou­ble boon for Ben­gal. “On one hand, we will get much needed rev­enue. Par­tic­u­larly, with our tar­get­ting of for­eign tourists, who al­ready come to Kolkata, but rarely ven­ture out into the dis­tricts. Se­condly, this will give em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for many small-scale en­trepreneurs.”

West Ben­gal Chief Min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee

State Tourism Min­is­ter Goutam Deb

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