A file picture of Darjeeling
Darjeeling, Nov. 19: The GTA today formed a tourism co-ordination committee comprising government departments and representatives of private tourism stakeholders to run the sector in an organised manner in the hills.
GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung is the head of the committee, whose members include officials of the forest department, regional transport authority, chairpersons of Darjeeling, Kurseong, Kalimpong and Mirik municipalities, and representatives of hotel owners, transport and tour operators and tea industry from different parts of the hills.
There has never been a committee tasked to look after tourism in the hills, which is one of Bengal’s most visited places by travellers from across India and the world.
The first meeting of the co-ordination committee was chaired by GTA principal secretary Saumitra Mohan today. “The meeting has been convened to ensure that there is a structure in place for proper co-ordination among different stakeholders for better regulations of tourism in the GTA area,” he said.
It was decided at today’s session that the co-ordination committee would sit for a meeting every month to work out modalities for various initiatives.
Sonam Bhutia, the secretary of GTA’s tourism department, announced a slew of projects passed by the GTA Sabha. “We will soon start the construction of a tourist lodge at Giddepahar in Kurseong. The project is estimated to cost around Rs 3.5 crore,” he said.
Other initiatives being undertaken by the GTA for tourism development include the widening of the Pankhabari road (from Kurseong to Siliguri) at a cost of Rs 3.5 crore and setting up of anniversary parks in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Kurseong where people can plant trees on special occasions.
The GTA will also develop Triveni near Teesta bazaar as a tourist spot, repair the Old Military Road (from Ghoom to Kurseong) and improve the infrastructure at Relli and Tiger Hill in Darjeeling. A dedicated section for children will be set up at the Shrubbery Nightingale Park.
Bhutia said the GTA would renovate all tourism properties which were in a rundown condition. The meeting also discussed grading of hotels, issuing permits for adventure sports, training tourist guides, setting up tourist view points at tea gardens and ensuring the safety of tourists by adhering to fire safety norms in lodgings.
The decision to grade hotels, Bhutia said, was to ensure that tourists were not charged astronomical amounts in the peak season. “Early this year, the administration had found that tourists were being charged higher rates by hotels and a hotel manager was arrested in Darjeeling in connection with this. We are hopeful that such practices will come to an end once the hotels in are graded,” said Bhutia.
He added that inquiry kiosks would be set up at Chowrastha to help visitors and all relevant information on hotels and their room rates would be available on the GTA website, which is being made.
A six-member GTA team will leave for Calcutta tomorrow to meet chief minister Mamata Banerjee and senior officials to discuss the transfer of departments and the introduction of a three-tier panchayat system for the GTA area.