Soon, houseboats in Kolkata, Sundarbans and creeks of Digha
Taking a cue from Kerala, West Bengal is now focusing on developing coastal and river tourism circuit by introducing houseboats in Kolkata, Sundarbans and creeks near Digha.
State Tourism department officials said they have recently awarded tender to a Kerala based private company to build seven houseboats for them.
"We want it like Kerala. We will have one houseboat plying along the Ganges in Kolkata, two-three in Sundarbans and three-four in the creeks between Tajpur and Mandarmani near Digha," A R Bardhan, principal secretary, West Bengal Tourism Department said.
It is for the first time that the tourism department is introducing houseboats in the state.
"We have lot of potential in river-based tourism and in the coastal circuit. We have a budget of about Rs 83 crore for developing the circuit," Bardhan said.
The air-conditioned houseboats, costing Rs 1.2 crore each, will have three rooms with all facilities like a kitchen, a common drawing room, etc.
"It will be like a hotel. The boat will do a cruise in the rivers, but will be anchored in one place. In Kolkata, tourists will get a good view of the city from the banks of the Ganges. You also get very good views of the Howrah Bridge and Vidyasagar Setu from the river," the official said.
It is expected that the houseboats will be ready in the next six months and be made available for tourists by the end of the year.
Private operators already offer houseboats in the Sundarbans, one of the major attractions in the state famous for its mangrove forests and tiger population.
Although Digha and nearby Mandarmani are popular for their beaches, the creeks along the coastline in East Midnapore district lies unexplored.
Officials said once the houseboats start plying in the creeks, it will give birth to a new tourist destination.
Close to the sea, the creeks have a charm of their own and are located near fishing villages.
In the Maoist-affected Junglemahal area, the department is planning to install three ropeways along the Mukutmanipur Dam in Bankura, Ayodhya Hills in Purulia and across the Subarnarekha river in West Midnapore district.
"We are doing that on a PPP model where the entire construction and maintenance will be done by the private party. We will provide land and bear a part of the construction cost. Revenue will be shared," Bardhan said.
The total construction cost of the three ropeways is expected to be Rs 20 crore.
West Bengal tourism has re-branded itself as 'Experience Bengal Sweetest Part of India' from this year with superstar Shah Rukh Khan as its brand ambassador.