July 3, 2015
WB Govt focuses on ‘Home Stay Eco-Tourism’
In the wake of the new tourism development initiatives taken by the current State Government and a deluge of investment proposals, the Government is looking at ‘Home Stay Eco-Tourism” as the next big thing in this sector. Major proponents of this idea believe that this is set to attract a large number of tourists not just from the other Indian states but also from abroad. Decisions in this regard are set to be taken in the nascent Eco-Tourism Board headed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee which is to meet for the first time on 8 July.
The Board is set to lay out the parameters for setting aside a room or two for tourists in the house apart from giving several tax benefits. The board will also work towards framing a dedicated and comprehensive Eco-Tourism policy. In the matter of protecting local ecology, the Board is set to move ahead taking cue from the Lamahata model. Task force for the development of models for riverine, coastal, wetlands, hills and heritage areas has been advised. In making the people of remote areas more independent, the State Government is set to provide a certain waiver in the electricity bills, service tax and sales tax, measures will be taken to develop the infrastructure of the areas in terms of drinking water, sanitation and power.
According to the estimates of the State Government, the new initiatives are set to generate employment for about 50,000 individuals primarily. When ‘Home Stay Eco-Tourism’ was introduced in Lamahata in August 2012 just a handful of families took it up, today about 50 homes offer such facility.
Following the major success in Darjeeling’s Lamahata, Eco-Tourism has major scope in Tinchullah, Kurseong and Kalimpong in the Hills. Even though these areas have a picturesque natural beauty there is a lack of hotel and lodging facilities, to harness the potential of these areas, the State is keen to introduce the concept of ‘Home Stay’. The board which is formed in the vision of the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee includes 13 government officials and 2 experts. Vice-chairman of the committee is the Chief Secretary. West Bengal is the only state where such a board has legal approval.
The homes will provide for the staying facilities of the tourist. To ensure that the facilities are up to the mark we will take stock of the facilities that are there such as constant drinking water provision, the condition of the bathrooms and kitchens, etc. These days the tourists want to have the local cuisine and may even want to learn how to make it. All these factors will be taken into consideration while framing the Eco-Tourism policy.