Houseboat ripples in tourism plan

Siliguri: Bengal will soon offer tourists leisure trips on houseboats that will cruise along its rivers, like the shikaras on the Dal Lake in Srinagar.

The state tourism department will introduce such boats on the Ganges, in the Sundarbans and on the Teesta in north Bengal.

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“We have already received two such boats and another six will arrive shortly. This new facility will provide a unique experience to the tourists who can enjoy staying in a luxury facility on the river, while moving along the Ganges and also in the Sundarbans,” said state tourism minister Gautam Deb here on Thursday.

He was elaborating on the plans of his department during the next fiscal, that is, 2018-19. For the fiscal, the state has allocated over Rs 400 crores.

According to Deb, each of these houseboats will have four double-bed rooms, a kitchen, drawing, dining rooms. The department is spending Rs 1 crore for each such boat.

This is for the first time the department is introducing such facilities for tourists in the state.

Sources said the department has plans to get all the boards ready ahead of the upcoming Durga Puja and introduce those in Calcutta and the adjacent areas.

“Back in 2010-2011 (when the Left were in power), the annual budget for tourism was only Rs 40 crores. But in the next fiscal, it is Rs 426.79 crores. This is a clear indication that the state is putting immense thrust on tourism,” said the minister.

The department, Deb said, will also introduce “Atithi Bandhu”- another new concept in tourism industry of the state.

These will be a batch of trained volunteers, who would be posted in all prominent tourist destinations of the state to guide and help tourists.

“We are developing a nature interpretation centre at the Bengal Safari Park (located on Siliguri outskirts) and spending Rs 4 crores. Also, leopard safari will start at the park from April this year. These facilities, we feel, will increase the attractions for visitors,” said Deb.

The department is also preparing a policy on homestay accommodation under the state tourism corporation.

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