“We invited the tourism minister, secretary and other functionaries from West Bengal to attend the travel and tourism promotion show organised by the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce. But they were unwilling to participate in the event that had other competing states. We did try to reason that this was a great platform to at least showcase what Bengal had to offer. But sadly, they were uninterested,” an official of IACC told TOI at the sidelines of the event on Friday.
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The absence of anyone from Bengal was made more conspicuous by the presence of Odisha tourism minister Ashok Chandra Panda, Bihar tourism special secretary Keshav R Prasad and Assam Tourism Development Corporation chairman Jayanta Malla Baruah apart from US embassy minister and counsellor Patrick Santillo and senior members of IACC. A senior functionary of Jharkhand was also due to attend the event but was caught up in a delayed flight. The only representative from Bengal in the convention was a Biswa Bangla stall with a clutch of handmade products on display.
IACC national president N V Srinivasan did not name Bengal but remarked that if industrialisation wasn’t happening in a state, tourism was the next best option to create job opportunities. “Tourism is a state subject and requires active participation of states. This is an opportunity to attract foreign investment and learn how destinations and experiences can be packaged,” he said. The Niagara Falls viewed from the Canadian side is much more spectacular than the American side. Yet, the US has packaged and marketed the experience in such a manner that it probably draws more tourists.
Santillo also hinted at the need for Indian states to compete for dollars.
With the absence of any representative from the state sticking out like a sore thumb, Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly who was to attend an award ceremony in the evening walked into the event in morning session and walked away with the kudos after taking subtly digs at the Mamata Banerjee government.
“Getting a promotional film done by a big Bollywood star may not be the right answer. Instead, one can opt for someone who is passionate about it,” she said in an obvious reference to Shah Rukh Khan’s association with Bengal Tourism that has extended little beyond a promo film. When one pointed to Gujarat tourism using Amitabh Bachchan, Ganguly stuck to her view. “I would rather prefer someone who was known to be close to wildlife speaking about the jungles in a state rather than have a celebrity from the world of cinema,” she said.