Making a strong pitch to make West Bengal a top tourism destination in the world, state minister Babul Supriyo said the government wants to promote spots like the Sunderbans and islands surrounded by vast waterbody as backwater tourist spots like Kerala.
Supriyo addressing the Travel India 2023, organised by Indian Chamber of Commerce here on Thursday said the government with the participation of stakeholders like tour operators was determined to bring more people from other parts of the country and world to the state's several unique locations.
"If Kerala can earn money for backwater tourist spots why cant it be done in places of Bengal which have spots like the Sunderbans and islands. Why it cannot be done in places which are surrounded by huge waterbodies. Slowly we are getting into that, bringing people from other parts of the world," the tourism minister said.
Supriyo said the state was in favour of making tourism an inclusive sector to make Bengal, boasting off sea, snow-capped hills, forest, backwater, wildlife everything, the destination zone.
On the heritage front, he said Bengal possesses a rich repository of handicraft and when it comes to cuisine that is also an important aspect of our tourism. If one thinks about Durga Puja, which was conferred the UNESCO's Intangible Heritage tag that also needs to be tapped more for inviting tourists.
"Our Durga Puja festivities, the Red Road carnival cannot be equated with other carnivals across the world, like the Rio carnival. Here the essence is absolutely divine. During such occasions different kinds of handicraft are on display. We are trying to showcase that in an inclusive manner," he added.
Supriyo said there are places in Jalpaiguri, in southern parts of Bengal where the government is trying to explore what can be done to facilitate higher tourist inflow from outside.
Coming to wedding destinations, which have become a trend among a section of people, Supriyo asked "why wedding destination will only be places like Bangkok? Is it because the air fare is less as compared to the airfare in some other domestic destinations? There can be destination weddings in Bengal in similar fashion. We have to hard sell that."
The minister said his government was in favour of having the PPP mode in tourism sector in a handholding exercise with the private tour operators.
"You talk about Switzerland, you talk about beautiful hotels, ski properties. But all of these are not government-owned," Supriyo said. He said the state is taking care of its properties and renovating them but other stakeholders should also come forward.
Supriyo referred to another project by the state where from a QR app on mobile, visitors can know details about Persian inscriptions on tombs in various parts of the city, in places like Malda and Murshidabad.
"We have a skilled lot of young people. They can be employed," he added.
He said chief minister Mamata Banerjee was giving incentives to home stay sector which is emerging as an important part of state tourism.
There are 1,963 home stays in the state, he said, adding the state was giving subsidy to them every year.
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