SOURENDRANATH BHATTACHARYA, managing director, West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation, met readers of The Telegraph in his office at 3/2, BBD Bag, to answer their queries. Participants included Sukumar Pal, Subhomoy Ghosh, Anupam Muhuri, Diptimoy Ghosh, Avrojit Das, Samir Bhattacharya and Chandrima Ghosh
Sukumar Pal: How many lodges does the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC) run within the state and outside'
We run 31 lodges, spanning all the districts. Six lodges in different districts are in the hands of private entrepreneurs. Presently, we have no lodge in Cooch Behar. We do not run any tourist lodge outside the state.
Samir Bhattacharya: Do you have bureaux elsewhere'
Outside Calcutta, we have bureaux in Delhi and Chennai. In other states, we have tied up with the tourism department of those states for offering services.
Sukumar Pal: Some WBTDC lodges charge higher rates than private lodges.
Our lodges are not run purely for business gains. We also aim to highlight various aspects of the state.
Sukumar Pal: Has any new spot been added to the tourism itinerary'
We are scouting for new locations. We have pinpointed Gossaingaon, in Cooch Behar, for its archaeological importance. We have requested the Centre for the necessary funds. Once they arrive, Gossaingaon will be developed into a tourist spot. We are also trying to develop the Dooars and if any entrepreneur wants land, we will offer it to him after getting the consent from the district magistrate. A heritage spot is coming up at Bishnupur and the Centre has sanctioned Rs 5 crore for it. All that apart, we plan to develop a spot close to the Kopai river, in Santiniketan, which is of ethnic cultural importance.
Diptimoy Ghosh: Some foreigners are forced to put up in small hotels on Sudder Street and its vicinity. They can easily stay in Great Eastern Hotel.
Thatís true. But we have to consider the package and the overhead costs.
Avrojit Das: Recently, I visited Gadiara. I was shocked at the state of its upkeep. It needs urgent attention. Are there any plans to develop Mukutmanipur, in Bankura'
I shall personally visit Gadiara to see whatís wrong with its upkeep. We cannot allow a tourist spot to rot. About Mukutmanipur, its locale is perfect. There, we have accommodation for every kind of tourist.
Chandrima Ghosh: A roadmap of spots across different districts is essential for any tourist. Does the WBTDC have any'
We provide a colourful guide to every tourist visiting the state, which definitely helps him or her know the spots that are to be visited. However, we will keep your suggestion in mind about more elaborate maps covering different districts.
Samir Bhattacharya: Other states organise a blitz of packages to attract tourists. What about the WBTDC'
Every campaign requires a lot of funds, which we donít have. But still, we participate in various travel and tourism programmes. Our Ganga Heritage Tour and the Darjeeling package have always drawn an overwhelming response from foreigners. Some attractive schemes are in the pipeline, like an European extension tour, covering Chandernagore, Hooghly and other places.
Subhomoy Ghosh: Almost all schools and colleges organise winter excursions. Does the WBTDC help'
We have packages for schools and colleges that are quite attractive on their own. Usually, we tailor the tours according to destination and budget.
Anupam Muhuri: The WBTDC has both short and long tour packages. Which is better'
Our package tours are by bus. Itís only now that we plan to offer tourists train rides. In some cases, we offer 50 per cent discount on off-season tickets. Moreover, we offer packages to schools and colleges, which have proved quite popular.