West Bengal Government promoting river tourism in a big way

January 13th, 2009 - 1:30 pm ICT by ANI  

By Ajitha Menon
Kolkata, Jan.13 (ANI): Ganga Kutir lies along the banks of the Ganga in the pastoral hamlet of Raichak-on-Ganges, about an hour and halfs drive from Kolkata, West Bengal. This 12-crore property sprawling over two acres symbolizes the potential of River Tourism in the state.
It’’s no wonder then, that the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation is foreseeing an investment of Rs 150 crore in the next couple of years just for promoting river tourism. The investment would go towards renovating heritage ghats along the Ganges as well as developing a Marina with speed boats, para-sailing and cruise boats facilities.
There is no doubt that river tourism targets the high-end tourists. For example, Ganga Kutir caters to an exclusive set who can drive down from Kolkata to enjoy a couple of days of total relaxation in the lap of luxury.
The resort has 16 rooms priced at Rs 12000 onwards, a library, a bar, a Spa, a swimming pool which seems to merge into the river, river cruise facilities and an excellent restaurant. According to Mr Harshvardhan Neotia, even though Kolkata was lacking is such weekend tourist spots, this segment is now really catching up.
Neotias Ambuja Realty first set up the five-star hotel Fort Raichak with conference facilities on the river side at Raichak. The property continues to have over 60% occupancy through the year with 100% occupancy in the four months of Oct, Nov, Dec, January as well as during the holiday season. Neotia says that Fort Raichaks success propelled him to set up Ganga Kutir a more exclusive retreat on the river side. In just two months from its launch in November, Ganga Kutir has been such a success that Ambuja Realty is planning to add another 12 rooms to the property. The total project area now extends to about 70 acres and the projected investment is Rs 100 crore.
The superb Spa facility with Swedish, Thai, Javanese, Ayurvedic treatments and reflexology and stone therapy is common to both Fort Raichak and Ganga Kutir and is a compelling reason for the clients to take the trip. The very fact that Sri Lankan architectect Channa Daswatte was called in to design Ganga Kutir in traditional Bengal Ashram style indicates that promoters are sparing no efforts to provide world class resorts which re-define luxury.
West Bengal has the right specifications to become the river tourism destination in India with the magnificent delta Sunderbans with its mangrove forests and the pilgrimage point Sagar Islands where the Ganga Sagar Mela is held every year, points out Manabendra Mukherjee, West Bengal Minister for Tourism. The government has already announced a new tourism policy with a positive approach towards river tourism. The policy offers several incentives, grants and subsidies to investors wanting to invest in this segment.
Though the budgetary support to tourism is only Rs 35 crores, the minister makes it clear that the government was actively seeking private investment in this sector. The government is expecting about Rs 4000 crore private investment, including FDI, in tourism and infrastructure.
Private promoters like Ambuja Realty, who offer private ferry rides to Sunderbans Delta and Sagar Islands from its project at Raichak say that development in river and road infrastructure would go a long way in attracting tourists.
According to Mr T V N Rao, Managing Director, West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation, there was great scope for investment in river tourism in the state starting from hotels along the banks of the Ganges, river entertainment, infrastructural development of the Sunderbans Delta area, which is still very undeveloped etc. There is also tremendous potential for investment in Tea Tourism in the Dooars in North Bengal which has over 350 Tea Gardens and Hill Tourism in Darjeeling.
Growth in West Bengal Tourism is on the positive side despite the recent recession, according to Mukherjee. Both inflow of tourists into the state and outflow is higher than the national average and West Bengal figures in the top five states of the country in tourism.
From 1,14,064 foreign tourists in 1991, West Bengal saw an inflow of 6,38, 256 foreign tourists by June alone in 2008. The total tourist inflow into the state in the first six months of 2008 touched 12076102 from a mere 3225502 in the whole of 1991. Total tourist inflow into Kolkata alone stood at 48,59,961 in 2007.
Considering that the state has rivers, hills, tea gardens and a delta only thing missing being a desert it can be safely assumed that the state will go a long way as a tourist hub with support from the private sector. (ANI)

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