| Belur Math: On the foreign tourist’s roadmap
Strips along the riverfront paved with stone. Cruises to Belur Math and Dakshineswar. St John’s Church restored to its former glory. Laldighi lush with aquatic architecture. A round or two on the world's second oldest golfing greens. And, of course, the magic of the Pujas…
Even as Writers’ Buildings harps on the need to change perception of Calcutta and Bengal to attract investors, the Union tourism and culture ministry is doing its bit to showcase the city as a destination on the global tourism map.
“We would like to project and publicise the special points of interest in the city that would draw the foreign tourists, so that they include Calcutta in the loop too, and not just touch Darjeeling,” observes Alka Kohli, regional director (East), India Tourism.
The arm of the Union department of tourism, which is responsible for disseminating information to domestic as well as international tourists among other briefs, wants to make heritage and culture the bulwark of its campaign to present a rosier picture of the city to the West.
“Calcutta has a pathetic 3.9 per cent share of the international tourist traffic pie, going by arrival statistics at port of entry. By contrast, Delhi’s share is 28.6 per cent and Mumbai’s 25.4 per cent,” Kohli says. She feels this is largely due to lack of information and proper packaging of the inherent strengths of the city.
“For instance, so much could be done with the riverfront here, like they have done with the Thames. Or the magnificent houses along Rabindra Sarani mapped and their history researched and presented in an attractive narrative,” suggests Kohli, who has served as director, India Tourism, London, and as manager in Milan.
To help bring the product to a level that would enthuse the global tourist, India Tourism, with offices in 18 countries, wants to kick off an awareness initiative. “We will get foreign scribes down to Calcutta, get them into hop-on, hop-off buses and take them around places that portray the quintessential Calcutta, not just the race courses and the marble palaces,” Kohli stresses.
Stops would include Chitpur, the red-brick quarters of north Calcutta, the resplendent British buildings of Dalhousie Square, and, of course, the splendour of the Durga puja, for which India Tourism is offering its publicity outreach to the NGO Happenings.
Possibilities of promoting places like Malda (tied to history-steeped Gaur and Pandua), Bishnupur, Murshidabad and even Bakkhali-Frasergunj are being explored as part of the “Calcutta-Darjeeling circuit”.