Priyanka Saxena Ray
How has been this year for West Bengal as far as tourism growth is concerned?
The year 2023 has been quite positive for tourism in West Bengal. We’ve observed promising numbers and, notably, domestic tourists have emerged as a significant segment. We’ve realised the importance of domestic tourism, which has been our primary focus during the pandemic. While inbound tourism remains essential, domestic traffic has seen significant growth. With the festive season in full swing, we are hopeful of achieving good numbers.
Can you elaborate on West Bengal’s current tourism policies?
West Bengal has put in place comprehensive tourism policies aimed at bolstering and promoting the state’s tourism sector. Notably, the state’s homestay policy has provided a significant boost to efforts to conserve the numerous heritage properties that grace our state. Globally, homestays have emerged as a compelling alternative to traditional hotel accommodations, as they afford guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in local culture and cuisine through interactions with host families. In the vibrant city of Kolkata, homestays can also offer tourists an authentic experience of our rich culture and heritage. Furthermore, during festivals like Durga Puja, homestays hold immense potential, as the supply of hotel rooms in the city often falls well short of the soaring demand.
Under this new policy, the tourism department has established a meticulous 12-point evaluation system to assess compliance. These criteria include factors like location, exterior, building type, toilet facilities, common areas, food services, kitchen standards, cleanliness, hygiene, communication, and adherence to eco-friendly practices.
Could you provide more details regarding the primary target audience for this year’s campaigns? Is the focus primarily on domestic tourists, or are you also directing efforts towards attracting inbound tourists?
This year, our central focus lies on inbound tourists. We have tailored our campaigns and strategies to primarily cater to this specific group. To this end, we have made a wealth of comprehensive information readily available online, encompassing a diverse range of attractions. These offerings extend to religious circuits, tourist circuits, and the stunningly beautiful and picturesque locations that grace West Bengal. Our aim is to entice and welcome visitors from around the world, drawing their attention to the rich cultural and natural wonders that our state has to offer. While we value and recognise the significance of domestic tourism, for the current season, our efforts are primarily geared towards engaging and captivating the inbound tourist demographic.
Are you optimistic about West Bengal’s tourism industry reaching the 2019 figures, and if so, when do you expect to achieve this?
We are optimistic about achieving the 2019 tourism figures, and we are aiming for this in the year 2024. Currently, in terms of inbound tourism, we are ranked as the third most visited state in the country, as published by the Ministry of Tourism.
How is West Bengal addressing sustainability in tourism?
Sustainability is of paramount importance, and West Bengal is actively promoting it through various initiatives. The Homestay movement and the cultural Heritage movement are both centred on sustainability. These initiatives involve local communities in adopting sustainable practices, such as energy preservation and conservation, which is crucial as local communities often bear the brunt of the impacts of tourism on their environment.