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West Bengal Tourism Minister Goutam Deb has said the developments in Bengal’s tourism sector have helped the state emerge as one of the favourite destinations among domestic as well as international tourists.

He made the statement while addressing a gathering at the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) recently.

The minister said, another comprehensive project for the development of tourism will be taken up soon at an estimated budget of Rs 500 crore.

The Bagdogra Airport has recorded the highest growth rate of traffic in India, he said, adding that the State Government is providing 136 acres for its expansion. Of this, 26 acres has already been provided to the Airports Authority of India.

Several other airports are coming up, in Balurghat, Cooch Behar, Burnpur and other places, which would help in both tourism and business.

Three new projects in public-private partnership (PPP) are being taken up by the government – Bhorer Alo Gajoldoba, at Jharkhali in the Sundarbans and at Sabujdwip in Balagarh, on the western bank of the Hooghly River. They are worth Rs 2,500 crore.

In Gajoldoba, the Tourism Department is setting up a centre for hospitality training. Such centres will also set up in other places.

Then, the Bengal Safari Park, the showpiece project of north Bengal, is undergoing more additions. A 1.5-km walkthrough tunnel aquarium has been planned there, with the initial phase being of 400 to 500 metres. More elephants and exotic birds are also being brought here. This park is clocking heavy profits.

A similar safari park is being planned in a remote forest area in Darjeeling district known as Chamukdangi.

In addition to these, the government has earmarked a total of 89 trekking routes till now where it is building trekking camps. Places such as Tiger Hill and Sandakphu see a lot of trekkers throughout the years.

Tourism projects have also been taken up in Kalimpong, Chalsa, Fulbari and Sevoke.

The Tourism Department has 43 resorts, which it plans to increase to 100. They are being upgraded to three-star properties. Wherever space is available, said the minister, sky-walks, nature interpretation centres, museums, kitchen gardens where organic farming could be done and several other facilities would be set up.

The State Homestay Policy is ready and the government is moving at a fast pace in registering homestays, with a strict eye on ensuring that these follow the norms laid down in the policy.

At the same time, six houseboats of the Tourism Department will soon become operational. Private operators too will operate some of the routes.

Moreover, Kolkata in particular has the potential to become the hub of MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) tourism due to its low cost of operations, rich culture, heritage, lineage of art and poetry and proximity to South East Asia.

All these, and more, are aimed at making Bengal the supreme state for tourist attractions, the minister said.

Last but not the least, seeing the potential, he called for more and more private investment in the tourism sector.

Deb said the state government is ready to provide land at suitable places.


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