Tourism deptt to focus on rural Bengal, heritage sites

Updated on May 17, 2007 04:44 PM IST
Bengal government has taken up an ambitious project to promote tourism in rural Bengal and the places with heritage sites, reports Santanu Saraswati.
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Hindustan Times | BySantanu Saraswati, Kolkata

In view of the huge potential of tourism, the state government has taken up an ambitious project to promote tourism in rural Bengal and the places with heritage sites, principal secretary, tourism department, GD Gautama, said on Thursday.

"The Union Tourism Ministry, has sanctioned 71 rural tourism projects to spread tourism and its socio-economic benefits to identified rural sites having tourism potential. The capacity building programme has also been taken up in partnership with United Nation Development Project (UNDP) for 36 rural tourism sites so that the benefit of tourism reaches the community at large. Our projects for promoting tourism is in line with the Union Government's decision," Gautama said.

The department was seeking private investment for development of a Ganga Heritage Cruise of 250 kms from Lal Bagh in Murshidabad in the north through six districts and ending at Kolkata. It would cover locations which reflected the three cultures that shaped Bengal - that of the Islamic Nawabs, the Vaishanava movement and European colonialism. Locations like Murshidabad, Plassey, Nabadwipdham, Barrackpore, Malda and Mayapur would be covered. The estimated cost of this project was around Rs 49.5 crore.

Gautama said: "After the partition of Bengal a large number of population has shifted to either Bangladesh or some other Islamic countries of South East Asia. If we could develop tourism infrastructure and provide them better hotel and other facilities, I am sure that at least there would more than a lakh of international tourists from these countries coming to visit our state."

The department has named this as "Nostalgic Tourism". This would also enable the Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals who left the country just before the partition to visit their birthplace in Bengal. The principal secretary said: "People from across the border are not seen as tourists. The perpetual suspicion that they are refugees or miscreants has to be dispelled. Moreover, a country-wise or state-wise visa for these people while visiting India will open up the opportunity for promoting huge tourist exchange between India and Bangladesh and Pakistan."

The state tourism department has decided to project the "Battle of Plassey", Hazarduari, Lal Bagh, and Gaur. The department would be developing a handicrafts complex, amusement park, shopping malls and three star hotels and resorts in and around the places on interest along with the beach beautification of the river bank. The existing state guesthouses will be handed over to private entrepreneurs for maintainence and would be run on a private-public-partnership basis. The department would develop the Ayodhya Pahar, part of the 2000 feet high Dalma hills range in Purulia west of Kolkata with a dense forest cover and vibrant tribal communities as another prospective hill destination.

In order to meet the rising demand of accommodation due to increased growth in tourist arrivals, Department of Tourism brought out guidelines for classification of Apartment Hotels, Time Share resorts and Guest Houses. Department of Tourism will also sanction capital subsidy and interest subsidy for 21 budget category hotels.

For rural tourism, the department would involve the district administration, zilla parishads, non-governmental organisations and local populace for promotional activities as well as taking care of preservation work.

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