Ever since the disaster in Uttarakhand, tourists are seeking secure places to visit and state tourism boards are trying to accommodate them with the same, says swaati chaudhury

With the rains playing havoc in Char Dham, tourists in Bengal are in a fix when it comes to planning for the puja holidays in the Himalayas’ pilgrim resorts and most of them now prefer safer destinations. The recent Travel and Tourism Fair focused on a number of state tourism departments that are cashing in on Bengal&’s tourists with virgin beach resorts and holy sites.
   With a focus on safe tourism, Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation is luring Bengal&’s tourists with helicopter rides at its fascinating Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Bineeta Rai, chief executive officer, STDC said, “Tourists can enjoy helicopter rides in Gangtok to get grand aerial views of sceneries that replicate Char Dham, Samdruptse and Sai Mandir in Namchi, South Sikkim. We are laying a lot of stress on pilgrim tourist sites including Namche and Tathagat Tsal in South Sikkim.”  The Dalai Lama visited Tathagat Tsal from 24-26 March this year.
   The state government has also taken an initiative to start a conservation programme across the state. Rai said, “We do not encourage unplanned construction activities in our state and buildings more than five and a half stories high are not allowed to come up. In case of natural calamities, our disaster management team sends helicopters to reach stranded tourists. We get in touch with our District Collector to offer quick help to affected tourists.” Besides, Travel Agents Association of Sikkim, Sikkim Association of Adventure Tour Operators and STDC are always there to provide relief to stranded tourists.
   Gujarat Tourism launched its Khushboo Gujarat Ki campaign at a five-star hotel in Kolkata, unveiling contrasting colours from Gujarat. Vipul Mittra, principal secretary, department of tourism, Gujarat said, “We have brought Buddhist tourists from Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to Gujarat. We are emphasising on 20 destinations in our state by providing tourists with world-class infrastructural facilites.
   The holy citadel of Ambaji will soon come up with 51 Shakti Peeths – a grandiose project worth Rs 50 crore that will open to tourists sometime this September. In terms of the number of domestic tourists that visit Gujarat, Bengal tourists are the second highest in number. Around 20 kiosks would be in major tourist destinations and there are call centers open 24 hours a day to facilitate info for tourists.” The state accommodated around 2.13 crore domestic travellers last year and hopes to welcome an infinite number of tourists this year.
   Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation unveiled a plethora of surprises for tourists from Bengal. Not only has it made an honest endeavour to host Durga Puja in tourist spots in Vishakhapatnam, Araku Valley, Vijaywada, Dindi and Suryalanka since last year, but it also looks forward to organising the puja in Hyderabad from this year onwards. Chandana Khan, chairperson and managing director, APTDC said, “Kolkata is a significant market for us.
Over the past years, Bengal tourists have been travelling to Araku Valley, Vishakhapatnam and Suryalanka beach resort. Bengal tourists are a secular lot and we are developing the beach tourism project in Srikakulam worth Rs 27 crore which will be open to tourists during Dussehra. We have the highest number of domestic tourists, close to 15.36 crore, in India. Hyderabad and Vishakhapatnam are our topmost priorities and we are building the beach corridor in Vishakhapatnam  at a cost of Rs 45 crore.”
   Bodoland Tourism is all set to promote the state as a paragliding hotspot for adventure buffs. With 40 per cent of its land covered in forests, Bodoland Tourism is betting big on paragliding and rafting. Partha Pratim Das, advisor, department of tourism, Bodoland Territorial Council said, “Our major tourist getaways are Manas National Park — listed as one among UNESCO&’s World Heritage Sites — Chakrasila Wildlife Sanctuary and Ultapani, well-known for 300 species of butterflies. 
Elephant retreats and long-range retreats are being developed in association with a Swedish outfit. We have invited a British organisation to take a survey on the northern area to create a trekking route along the 300 km stretch of the Bhutan border. We are eyeing a good number of Bengal tourists this year.”