In these trying times of cash shortage, Christmas has come early to Bengal with the state government drawing up grand plans to celebrate the biggest occasion in the Christian calendar and usher in the New Year.
“As in the past few years, this year too our government would be organising a grand Christmas carnival on Park Street. This is despite demonetisation hitting the state’s tourism sector hard. There will be tour packages on Christmas Eve and lots more,” state tourism minister Gautam Deb said.
Park Street and its surrounding areas are already a sea of lights and on December 16 chief minister Mamata Banerjee will inaugurate the festival at Allen Park. While the carnival will continue till December 23, the Christmas lights are going to light up Park Street till January 22, 2017.
“The Christmas carnival in Kolkata has proved to be a major tourist attraction. Last year, our state was ranked 6th in terms of tourists arrival at our airports during this time. Also, compared to 2013, we got over 2 lakh more foreign tourists and five lakh more domestic tourist during this time,” Deb said.
“Last year, Allen Park on Park Street had 25-odd food stalls. This year, there will be more than 40 such stalls, where revellers can savour food from all over the world,” said Vijay Dewan, MD of Apeejay Surrendra Group, which, along with Kolkata Police, the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and the state tourism department, are putting together the Park Street carnival.
This year, the government is also taking the celebrations to Siliguri. Also, there will be tours to landmark churches in Bandel and Chandannagar. “The tours would be start at 5 pm on December 24 and would continue past midnight. The packages have been launched only a few days back and already, we have 40% bookings,” Deb said.
The tourism department will also run the same packages on New Year Eve. As an added attraction for foreign tourists, there is also a fishing trip to the Sundarbans.