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West Bengal budget 2017-18: State bets big on tourism

Compared to 2016-17, when the department received `295 crore, the allocation has increased only by 13 per cent.

Written by Aniruddha Ghosal | Kolkata |
February 13, 2017 12:10:04 am
mamata banerjee, west bengal, west bengal budget, west bengal tourism, bengal tourism budget, bengal assembly, bengal assembly session, bengal budget session West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. PTI Photo

From roping in actor Shah Rukh Khan to hardsell tourism in the state, to repackaging classic Bengali sweets for the international market, the state government is doing all it can to make the virtually untapped tourism potential of the state into a viable revenue source. Over the years, this has reflected in the TMC government’s budgets, with the latest budget, present on Friday, allocating `335 crore to the sector – an almost 30-fold increase from the Left Front government’s last budget in 2010-’11.

Compared to 2016-17, when the department received `295 crore, the allocation has increased only by 13 per cent. But as one official put it, “The fact is that a lot of investment has happened in the last few years. This is because we’ve been focusing on creating the infrastructure and formulating schemes. Now the really difficult part begins – getting tourists to come and stay.”

“The inflow of tourists is increasing every year. That is why the state needs to draw an aggressive campaign plan to attract more tourists and compete with other states,” said Samrat Sanyal, the executive president of the Eastern Himalaya Travel & Tour Operators’ Association.

Earlier, the state government had launched a website — http://www.bengalweekend.com — that listed 44 such places across 20 districts of the state and plans to add more destinations soon. State Tourism Minister Gautam Deb said, “Tourists inclined to visit our state for a short period may find this website interesting and helpful. It will add value to tourism-related facilities and increase interest of tourists to visit these places.”

In particular, Deb and his ministry have been emphasising on on homestay and community development in different parts of the state, after such efforts reaped rich dividends for both the tourists and local people in the forests of Dooars in the foothills of Himalayas and in different unknown destinations of the Darjeeling Hills.

The ambitious ‘Homestay Policy’ also aims to boost the state’s micro and small entrepreneurs (MSEs) by engaging the local work force, while facilitating middle class tourism in the state’s tourism hotspots said officials.

According to officials, tourism – the state hopes – will prove to be a double boon for Bengal. “On one hand, we will get much needed revenue. Particularly, with our targetting of foreign tourists, who already come to Kolkata, but rarely venture out into the districts. Secondly, this will give employment opportunities for many small-scale entrepreneurs.”

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