Published on : Thursday, January 18, 2018
The Indian state of West Bengal is steadily emerging as an all-weather destination luring international tourists on business, social, and leisure trips throughout the year and in terms of a variety of products according to Mr. Indranil Sen, Minister of State for Tourism, West Bengal.
He was addressing a large gathering of tourism stakeholders coming from 30 countries, including the US, UK, Russia, Australia, Turkey and many South East Asian countries, at the inaugural session of the Destination East – West Bengal Tourism Summit 2018 at the Biswa Bangla Convention Centre in Kolkata’s Rajarhat-New Town here on 18th January, 2018.
Biswa Bangla Convention Centre is a newly built MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) hub in West Bengal. It has hosted the Bengal Global Business Summit 2018, on 16th and 17th January.
In terms of the number of tourist footfalls, he elaborated that West Bengal is growing at a CAGR of 26.5% between FY 2011 and FY 2016, against a CAGR of 14.5% between FY 2001 and FY 2010. The Minister made a special mention of the Durga Puja festival. Mr. Sen also said that a number of greenfield projects will be included in the State’s tourism menu for international travellers, and the state is expected to make about Rs. 5000 crore in the next five years in infrastructure and service development.
At the travel mart, he has also spoken about one of the biggest projects coming up at Gajaldoba in North Bengal, apart from Jharkhali in the Sunderbans, Purulia, Sabujdweep in Hooghly district and several other places across the state as new initiatives to attract visitors.
The Minister of State for Tourism feels that owing to the diversity in geographical contours from the Himalayas to the beaches of Bay of Bengal. West Bengal has ranked fifth in foreign tourist footfall in 2016-17, ahead of Goa, Rajasthan and Kerala, he mentioned.
Mr. Atri Bhattacharya, Principal Secretary, Departments of Home, Hill Affairs & Tourism, Government of West Bengal echoed Mr. Indranil Sen’s statements, saying that the biggest festival in Kolkata, the Durga Puja, is one of the largest such events in the world attracting nearly 13 million visitors over the 10-day period.
He went on to state that earlier West Bengal government had formulated a cultural tourism policy and currently it is making efforts to create a comprehensive tourism policy.
He mentioned that the state plans to organize home stays for tourists to cater to the huge demand as hotels mostly remain full during the period of Durga Puja festivities, mainly since the concept of homestays has been generating several employment opportunities and economic activities.
Mr. Bhattacharya also feels that the essence of Durga Puja can be realized uniquely by foreign globetrotters through State Government-aided packages that promote ‘Bonedibari’ Durga Pujas, the pujas organized at the aristocratic households of Kolkata.
The Minister for Hill Affairs and Tourism further informed that the West Bengal government is keen to work on this plan, as it is likely to be immensely lucrative for both the private and public sector.
Mr. Vijay Dewan, Chairman, Tourism subcommittee, CII Eastern Region & Managing Director, Apeejay Surrendra Park Group of Hotels said that West Bengal must take advantage of the new civil aviation policy which provides for 30% gap funding on regional routes and open up closed airstrips at Cooch Behar, Malda and Panagarh.
He said that this Eastern Indian state has unparallel tourism products which are unique in terms of its beauty, rich culture and history. The state offers the captivating Durga Puja and Christmas Festival too, making it an exciting destination for international travellers.
According to him, room inventory has grown over 1500 rooms in the past five years with investment of Rs 3,000 crore. To further attract investments and make projects viable FAR(floor area ratio) needs to be increased from the current 2.75 to 4 as in other metros.
Mr. Dewan feels that Kolkata also has an interesting potential in terms of the MICE industry. Therefore he is keen that the State government promotes the capital of West Bengal among global tourists, not only as the cultural capital of India with a remarkable heritage beauty, but also as a prospering MICE locale.
Mr. Manish Jain, Secretary, Department of Tourism, West Bengal, said that the focus of Destination East is to promote West Bengal Tourism with Kolkata as the gateway and as a world class tourist destination amongst the international buyers.