American Chamber of Commerce Eastern Chapter (AMCHAM) held an interactive breakfast session on 'Tourism in West Bengal' here on Wednesday.
Principal Secretary of West Bengal Department of Tourism, Vikram Sen, was present as chief guest who unveiled some of the ongoing and upcoming projects through public-private partnership in order to promote tourism in the state.
"Bengal has always been rich in terms of variety for tourism and Kolkata stands sixth in terms of annual tourist count," said Sen.
"Bengal has everything from sea beaches to forests to hills for you throughout the year. The only thing we lack is desert. But our world famous misti (desserts) fills that," he said.
Sen said: "Somehow we feel cultural tourism has been neglected and the Government of West Bengal wants to promote it."
The geography of West Bengal has been divided into five zones - Darjeeling Himalayas, Dooars, Heritage Bengal, Megacity Kolkata and Beaches and Mangroves for various projects.
The government has a plan of Rs 3490 crore investment in public-private projects in these zones where infrastructures like roads, electricity etc for the project sites will be government´s responsibility.
Sen claimed the Durgapur airport will be ready by the year end and Bagdogra´s night landing problems will also be solved within a few months.
India´s first set of airport cities called the ´Aerotropolis´ are being developed near the Durgapur region in collaboration with Changi Airport of Singapore.
"Once the panchayat elections are over we will open bidding for these projects as we cannot reveal much now because of election rules," he said.
The state is also developing new destinations like Gajoldoba (Dooars), Sylee (Darjeeling), Kunjanagar (Dooars), Jhadkhali (Sunderban), Sabuj Dweep etc. Besides these projects, the government also claimed to increase road and rail links along with six new routes for helicopter services.
As per the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the state government and Pawan Hans Limited in March 2013 the helicopter services will be provided on Kolkata-Haldia, Kolkata-Asansol, Kolkata-Durgapur, Kolkata-Digha, Kolkata-Ganga Sagar and Bagdogra-Darjeeling routes.
Several embassies have also been contacted for a new project of 50 km river cruise on Ganga river (Kolkata-Bandel). Bengal will also get two new ports at Ganga Sagar (National Port Authority) and Rasulpur (State Port Authority).
Sen claimed Rasulpur port to be the deepest in South East Asia with 18 metre draft.
"BBC will telecast West Bengal advertisements by July. We are also planning road shows in July-August in seven cities in order to promote Bengal tourism," he said.
The West Bengal government has inked an agreement with United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to prepare tourist maps for next five years.
(Reporting by Devashish Sarkar)