There is more to West Bengal than Rabindranath Tagore,Kolkata’s British heritage,the Sunderbans and the Hazarduari palace.
For instance,the lush green golf courses tucked away in the folds of the great Himalayas in north Bengal.
“They are already well-developed. It just needs proper marketing,” the state tourism department’s principal secretary,Raghvendra Singh,said.
Singh said the well laid-out golf courses would be one of the 25 themes the state government would highlight in order to promote tourism in the state.
Some of the themes will be based on geographical regions like Darjeeling hills while others will focus on subjects such as wildlife,heritage,Tagore,etc.
Highlighting the proud history,rich culture and glorious heritage of the state along with the geographical variety which it offers to tourists,an aggressive promotional blitzkrieg will be launched in the next couple of months, The state government has already roped in reigning Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan as its brand ambassador who will also be used to woo tourists.
“We are chalking out a plan on this which will be announced soon,” a source in the chief minister’s office said without revealing further.
Among other tourist themes will be the beaches of Digha and the nearby Mandarmoni,trekking in the wildlife-rich forests of Dooars and Jalpaiguri in north Bengal,heritage journey in the towns of Murshidabad and Coochbehar,river cruise to visit other tourist attractions in Kolkata and its outskirts.
The biggest area of concern,however,remains augmenting infrastructure,providing tourism-related amenities and ensuring the safety and security of travellers.
For this,the officials said,the budgetary allocation of the department of tourism has been doubled from Rs 44 crore in the current financial year to Rs 90 crore in the next fiscal.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already assigned tourism as a high-priority area.
Besides constructing budget-hotels,log huts,cabins,etc in picturesque locales around the state for accommodation purposes,the tourism department is actively promoting the concept of homestays,where travellers pay locals to stay at their place.
Forest dwellers living in the small hamlets within reserve forest areas of Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling districts have joined hands to initiate community-based tourism and improve their socio-economic conditions.
Officials said there are 220 forest villages in north Bengal,out of which 20 villages have been identified,considering idyllic locations.
Staying in the guest houses of forest villagers,tourists also get the opportunity to enjoy the local cuisine and observe their indigenous culture from close quarters.
The tourism department is also trying to launch helicopter services to connect Digha,Murshidabad,Sunderbans,Sagar Islands and Mayapur to Kolkata.
To encourage private investment in developing tourism infrastructure,they are also drawing up a PPP (Public-Private Partnership) model.