Millennium Post

Houseboats set to become Bengal's tourist magnets

Darjeeling: Houseboats are set to soon become a major tourist attraction in West Bengal, along the lines of Kerala. Along with this, many new tourism projects are also in the offing in the state.
"The Chief Minister wants tourism to flourish throughout Bengal. She wants to also raise the standard of tourism to an international level. Mamata Banerjee wants the art, craft and hospitality of Bengal to be presented before the world. We have formulated an integrated tourism policy," stated Tourism minister Goutam Deb, while talking to media persons in Siliguri on Thursday.
The minister stated that Rs 426.79 crore has been allocated for tourism in the recent budget.
"The state of Bengal ranks sixth in India, with respect to the number of foreign tourists visiting the state and eighth in the domestic tourist count. The number of footfalls has increased manifold," stated Deb.
The minister stated that as a pilot project, 8 houseboats are being built in Kolkata, out of which 2 will boast of conferencing facilities. The houseboats will be fitted with luxurious modern fixtures.
"The houseboats will be available on river Hooghly and the Sunderbans. We are trying to get one at Gajoldoba in North Bengal also. The houseboats need placid water and cannot be used in turbulent water," informed Deb.
The cost of each houseboat is to the tune of approximately Rs 1 crore.
Emphasis is being given to home stays, eco-tourism and adventure tourism.
"Home stay laws will be formulated soon and the Tourism department will provide all necessary support to these home stays. Details about the home stays will be available on the website of the Tourism department," stated the Tourism minister.
A meeting will be held in this regard, in Kolkata on Friday. A proper marketing strategy is being prepared using FM, websites and social media.
"From April 1, the Tourism department will be taking over 67 Pather-sathi (wayside inns) throughout the State. The Tourism department will professionally manage these inns," informed Deb.
The Tourism department will also be launching "Atithi Bandhus" (volunteers to help tourists) district-wise, modalities of which are being worked out.
"We are laying emphasis on capacity building as well. Our chefs are being trained in 5 star hotels. Tourist lodges are being upgraded with modern facilities like WiFi. A hotel management institute will come up in Durgapur in July. A Food Craft Institute is on the anvil at Gajoldoba," stated Deb.
Baul academies will come up in Shantiniketan and Kenduli. Religious tourism circuits are being made throughout the state. Nabadwip is being developed as a heritage town.
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