Located in the slimmest part of the Indian sub-continent, Siliguri, the second largest urban hub of Bengal, and the adjoining hills are gearing up for the G20 meeting to be held here next month.
With India securing the G20 presidency, Siliguri will host the second meeting of the Tourism Working Group (TWG) of the global forum here from April 1 to 3, with a focus on adventure tourism.
“Around 160 delegates, including representatives from abroad, will visit Siliguri and the Darjeeling hills during these three days. They will attend a number of sessions on tourism and ascend to the hills to experience the world-famous Darjeeling brew as well as a ride in the toy train, which is a world heritage site recognised by Unesco,” said a source in the Darjeeling district administration.
G. Kishan Reddy, the Union minister of tourism, is scheduled to attend the meeting.
The impetus, sources said, will be on adventure tourism. This is because though the Indian tourism industry is the seventh largest in the world with a market size of around 190 billion USD (in 2019), adventure tourism contributes a very small part of it.
In 2019, the market size of adventure tourism was around 0.3 billion USD.
“However, this sector is growing with a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of 20 per cent and is expected to reach two billion USD in another five years. That is why, the central government is putting the focus on this sector to expand the market and also draw investments,” Raj Basu, a veteran in the travel industry.
That the Indian government is keen on promoting adventure tourism was evident as in April last year, it introduced the National Strategy for Adventure Tourism.
Also, a National Board for Adventure Tourism has been constituted under the chairpersonship of the secretary of Union tourism ministry and comprises representatives from ministries, states, and stakeholders of the industry.
During the upcoming G20 of its TWG (tourism working group), a number of interesting facts pertaining to the country’s landscape which can help in introducing adventure tourism activities will be highlighted before the delegates.
“Seventy per cent of the Himalayas are located in India. It also has 7,000 kilometres of coastline and is one of the three countries in the world to have both hot and cold deserts. Air, water, and land-based activities for adventure tourism can be introduced on a major scale in different states of the country, from north to south and east to west,” pointed out a source in the tourism ministry.
In course of the meeting, there will be presentations by experts and stalwarts of the industry and also by Kerala, Uttarakhand and the Northeast.
On April 1, the delegates will be taken to Makaibari, a tea estate nestling in the Darjeeling hills and known worldwide for its brew. They will visit the tea factory, experience the tea and moonlight tea plucking.
“The plan to apprise them with the brew and the process of making it,” said an official of the state tourism department.
On the second day, the delegates will attend sessions at The Mayfair Tea Resort on the outskirts of Siliguri, where presentations on themes like green tourism, digitisation, and destination management would be made by countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Indonesia and Australia.
On the third day, the delegates will head for Ghoom, the highest railway station in India, and take a toy train ride to Darjeeling. They will attend cultural events at Chowrastaand will return to Siliguri on the same day.
Those associated with tourism in the region said the G20 events can help boost the sector here.
“The state government is consistently working for the improvement of tourism as it has immense potential for private investment and creation of jobs. We believe if the region and our geographical advantages are highlighted before the delegates, it can help to expand the sector,” said Samrat Sanyal, the general secretary of the Himalayan Hospitality and Tourism Development Network.