The West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC) finally seems to have awakened to the potential of river tourism. With a Rs 130-crore fund for river cruise development, the WBTDC is going full hog to tap the potential of the Ganga, much in tune with the Nile in Egypt. Foreign investors have also shown keen interest in the river transport system of the state.
By the end of September, UK-based Transindus, which conducts specialty tours across the world, is all set to launch a 56-passenger cruise from Kolkata to Varanasi.
“The company has informed us about its investment plans,” said Manab Pal, MD of Manor Floatel Limited.
Last December, a team of professors from Harvard University had travelled from Kolkata to the Sunderbans and then to Paradip in Orissa and back. The West Bengal government is also considering developing this route for tourism.
The state government, in an attempt to attract tourists, is also inviting private investors to develop luxury resorts along the banks of the Ganga river. Ambuja Realty has already developed a resort at Raichak.
The government is also planning to invest Rs 150 crore for development of river tourism in West Bengal.
A proposal of Rs 24 crore has been sanctioned by the Centre for the renovation of 12 ghats along the 260-km stretch of the Ganga from Kolkata to Azimgunj in Murshidabad. The government will be inviting tenders early next month for luxury cruises along the stretch.
“We have four vessels travelling to the Sunderbans now. We will be upgrading them and making them air-conditioned. The tariff will also increase by 70-80 per cent,” said MD, WBTDC TVN Rao. Besides, the WBTDC has also introduced online bookings for cruise lines traveling to various destinations in the state from January 2009 .