Ben­gal eyes south & east mar­kets

With a re­vamped brand iden­tity and hav­ing ranked sixth in the for­eign tourist ar­rivals (FTAs) list and eighth in the do­mes­tic mar­ket in 2015, West Ben­gal is eye­ing new mar­kets to boost tourist foot­fall in the state, in­forms Su­ra­jit Bose, Ad­di­tional Di­rect

TravTalk - India - - Movements -

QHow has the past year fared for tourist foot­fall in the state? The year 2015 was a good year for us. We wel­comed 14.9 lakh for­eign tourists in 2015, up from 13.75 lakh in 2014 and now rank sixth for high­est FTAs. In do­mes­tic tourism, we’ve recorded the high­est in­crease (2014-2015) of over 43 per cent in num­ber of do­mes­tic tourist with a to­tal of 4.9 per cent share in to­tal do­mes­tic tourist vis­its. Our rank­ing here, has also im­proved to eighth po­si­tion. West Ben­gal re­ceives max­i­mum of its tourists from west and north In­dia namely Gu­jarat and Ma­ha­rash­tra. Through continued ef­forts, we hope to make it to the top three states for tourism.

QWhat are some of the in­ter­na­tional mar­kets that West Ben­gal aims to tap?

China is one of the ma­jor mar­kets we want to tap with its prox­im­ity and di­rect flight con­nec­tiv­ity with Kun­ming. We or­gan­ised a Fam trip ear­lier this year and hosted around 17-20 Chi­nese agents to show them Ben­gal’s tourism prod­ucts and have another one in Oc­to­ber. China poses some chal­lenges as it is a re­stricted mar­ket and pro­mo­tion is tougher. For this ven­ture to be suc­cess­ful, the first ne­ces­sity is to pro­vide Man­darin speak­ing tour guides for which we are ty­ing up with the In­sti­tute of Chi­nese Lan­guage. We will be pro­mot­ing the state on lo­cal mag­a­zines & news­pa­pers and var­i­ous other medi­ums. Ad­di­tion­ally, we took part in a few ex­pos in Kun­ming to un­der­stand the mar­ket.

Sri Lanka is also a de­vel­op­ing mar­ket and since di­rect flights to Colombo on Mi­hin Lanka have com­menced, it has be­come more con­ve­nient to bring in Sri Lankan tourists. Con­nec­tiv­ity is al­ways a ma­jor fac­tor when tap­ping any new mar­ket. Very soon, in­ter­na­tional road­shows will also com­mence in var­i­ous mar­kets where we want our prod­ucts to be well-known.

QWhich do­mes­tic mar­kets are you tar­get­ing? Since we re­ceive a very small num­ber of tourists from South In­dia, we plan to start pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­i­ties there. We are look­ing at or­gan­is­ing road­shows in South In­dia to in­crease foot­fall and also un­der­stand what would ap­peal to the tourists from there.

QTell us about some of the ma­jor tourism projects? With as­sis­tance from the Cen­tral Gov­ern­ment, a Coastal Cir­cuit is be­ing de­vel­oped un­der the Swadesh Dar­shan scheme. The coastal cir­cuit will com­prise Udaipur – Digha – Shankarpur – Ta­jpur – Man­dar­mani – Fraser­ganj – Bakkhlai – Henry Is­land for which funds to the tune of around ` 85.3 crore have been sanc­tioned. Once it is ready, it will im­mensely help boost tourism. Apart from this, an eco-vil­lage in Ga­jold­aba (North Ben­gal) is be­ing worked on while we also in­tend on de­vel­op­ing Pu­ru­lia as an up­com­ing des­ti­na­tion. The bud­getary al­lo­ca­tion for Tourism Depart­ment has in­creased man­i­fold over the years, from a mea­gre ` 44 crore in 2011-12 to ` 257 crore in 2015-16.

QThe Ga­jold­aba project has been on for quite a while. Have there been any chal­lenges?

Yes, sev­eral projects have been de­layed due to ob­jec­tions by Na­tional Green Tri­bune. We are work­ing it out and they have asked us to pre­pare an Im­pact as­sess­ment study. Once it is ready and ap­proved, it will take lesser time. But the project is on and work con­tin­ues.

QWhat is the state do­ing to boost in­vest­ments? The In­cen­tive Scheme 2015 ap­plies to in­vestors who want to em­power in prop­er­ties in WB. For mega projects above ` 100 cr in­vest­ment, they will be get­ting 75 per cent VAT re­fund for five years. Sev­eral pri­vate ho­tel chains have al­ready shown keen in­ter­est in set­ting up branches in Ben­gal. Lemon Tree has re­cently started op­er­a­tions in Pu­ru­lia while Mar­riott is com­ing up with a branch in Dar­jeel­ing. ITC is also ex­pand­ing in a big way in Kolkata. Am­buja Group has in­vested in Makai Bari Tea Es­tate for tea-tourism and is also work­ing on a project in Digha. We need renowned branded names to cre­ate a rip­ple ef­fect es­pe­cially in ar­eas where there is a lack of ac­com­mo­da­tion.

QWhat ef­forts have been made in the dig­i­tal seg­ment? Since dig­i­tal is so pow­er­ful these days, we are also try­ing to im­prove our on­line pres­ence. Re­cently, the West Ben­gal Tourism mo­bile app was launched so that trav­ellers can find in­for­ma­tion in the con­ve­nience of their phones and while on the go. Our of­fi­cial web­site is also look­ing at a com­plete re­vamp and will be re-launched in the com­ing days. Apart from this, we have also be­come ex­tremely ac­tive on so­cial me­dia like Face­book, Twit­ter, and the likes. Plans of ty­ing up with Google for pro­mo­tion are also in the pipe­line.

Sri Lanka is al­soa a de­vel­op­ing mar­ket and since di­rect­di­rec flights to Colombo on Mi­hin Lanka ha have com­menced, it has be­come more c con­ve­nient to bring in Sri Lankan tou tourists. Con­nec­tiv­ity is al­ways a ma­jor fac­tor when tap­ping any new mar­ket. Su­ra­jit Bose Joint Sec­re­tary – Tourism Govt. of West Ben­gal

AHANA GURUNG

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