West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee
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