Bengal fast becoming all-weather tourism hub, says Indranil Sen
Kolkata: Bengal is fast emerging as an all-weather destination, welcoming tourists on business, social, and leisure trips throughout the year and in terms of variety of products, the state can be matched by few others, according to Indranil Sen, minister of state for Tourism.
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 New Town on Thursday.
In terms of tourist footfall, West Bengal has grown at a CAGR of 26.5% between FY 2011 and FY 2016, against a CAGR of 14.5% between FY 2001 and FY 2010, he said. Sen made a special mention of the Durga Puja festival, saying, "This is unique. Every neighbourhood has a story to tell."
Sen also said that a number of greenfield projects will be included in the state's tourism menu for international tourists and the state is expected to make about Rs Rs 5,000 crore in the next five years in infrastructure and service development.
"One of the biggest projects is 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," he pointed out.
Atri Bhattacharya, state Home secretary in charge of Hill Affairs and Tourism, said that the biggest festival in Kolkata, the Durga Puja, is one of the largest such events in the world, which attracts around 13 million visitors over the 10-day period. "The state plans to organise home stays for tourists to cater to the huge demand, as hotels mostly remain full during the period," he said.
According to Dipak Haksar, Chairman, CII National Committee on Tourism and Hospitality and Chief Executive of ITC Hotels and Welcome Hotels, its strategic location holds Kolkata in good stead to become the next important MICE destination in the country, that will in turn lend strength to hospitality as a whole.
"Kolkata definitely has the potential to build and create an identity as a Gateway to the North East," he said, adding that with the unveiling of the New Tourism Policy in the state and the government's commitment towards infrastructure development, availability of land, incentives and tourism-friendly policies, it is an ideal time to invest and be part of the Sustainable Tourism Development of the state," he said.
According to him, West Bengal offers a variety of choices to a traveller, from being the sweetest state to culinary, cultural, spiritual, film, wildlife and adventure tourism.
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; as a world class tourist destination among international buyers.