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Meeting with the Honorable MIC Tourism on 26th July at Hotel Cindrella, Siliguri with Stakeholders of Tourism organised by EHTTOA (Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators Association), Silifuri, West Bengal, India

Racchpal Singh, the state tourism minister in his first visit to north Bengal has agreed to a demand of stakeholders in the tourism industry to form a separate tourism board for the region. The board would help promote the region as a tourist destination. “We are in the process of forming a state tourism board which will act as an advisory body to the department. I have realised during my tour of north Bengal that the region is vast, has immense tourism potential and needs a separate board. This new proposal will be put in the draft that has been prepared for the state board and placed before the chief minister for her endorsement,” said Rachhpal Singh today.

Singh, on a three-day visit of the region, attended an interactive session convened by the Eastern Himalaya Travel and Tour Operators’ Association (EHTTOA) — An association of tourism stakeholders in North Bengal and the Northeast— in Siliguri. The event was held to apprise him of their demands and problems.

“Both the state and north Bengal tourism boards will have representatives from the industry, local people, government officials from the concerned departments like tourism and forests,” the minister said.

“We are also mulling over a proposal to frame a State Tourism Act, which can define our jurisdiction and powers. Our jurisdiction and powers are not clearly defined, which lead to problems in implementation of projects or addressing (other) problems. The Act would help in such cases,” Singh added.

Addressing a grievance of EHTTOA members, Singh said he would talk to the Union tourism ministry and request the Sikkim government to allow taxi permits to Bengal vehicles in the neighbouring state.

“We are planning to develop international standard golf courses in the region and are scouting for locations,” Singh said. Among other plans, the tourism department would train and deploy around 30 tourist guides ahead of the Puja season, deploy SUVs with trained taxi drivers and organise interactive sessions for tourism stakeholders throughout the country.

“We will introduce SUVs with trained drivers. They will also be granted ownership of the vehicles on payment of EMI. Interactive sessions for Bengal tour operators with those of other states to draw in more tourists would be organised,” he said.

Singh also insisted on international branding of destinations such as Sunderbans and Darjeeling during the meeting.
EHTTOA had the following agenda placed to the honourable Minister for considerations
  1. Declare Tourism as an Emergency service and keep tourism out of the purview of Bandhs
  2. Transport Policy: Regional Tourist Taxi Permit for EHTTOA members and North Bengal Tourism stakeholders
  3. Tourism Policy: Forest related, ecotourism policy, single window booking for all tourism related bookings etc.
  4. Infrastructure: Road connectivity, promotion etc.
  5. North Bengal Tourism Board with concerned Government Departments and North Bengal's Tourism stakeholders.
  6. Invest subsidy for small local investors in tourism for North Bengal.
  7. Tourism recognization by state to mention facilities and make the same tomebound (easy processing).
  8. Funding for 'tourist activity development projects' and not on investment in infrastructure to compete with private local investors.
  9. Capacity Building of Tourism Service Providers.

Posted on: 01 Aug, 2012

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