Darjeeling (West Bengal) [India], February 24 (ANI): Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Culture and Tourism, Prahlad Singh Patel on Tuesday said that an 'Atmanirbhar' (self-reliant) tourism-based economy will provide gainful employment opportunities to the youth of the Eastern Himalayan part of West Bengal.
While inaugurating the three-day Incredible India Mega Homestay Development and Training Workshop in Darjeeling yesterday, where homestay owners in the region will be trained to boost the homestay culture, the minister said "we have to preserve our old traditions and culture".
Patel also inaugurated the second phase of the 11th Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav in Darjeeling. The festival is being organised to promote the spirit of 'Ek Bharat Sreshtha Bharat', and will be held for three days in Darjeeling till February 24.
Patel said India has done exceptionally well in terms of tourism, adding that in 2019 India's rank in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index of World Economic Forum has moved to 34th position from 65th rank in 2013.
Member of Parliament Darjeeling Raju Bista and ADG of Ministry of Tourism Rupinder Brar and other officials were also present on the occasion.
Speaking on the occasion Prahlad Singh Patel said, "The Eastern Himalayan part of West Bengal is one of the most significant tourist destinations in India. The presence of Darjeeling Himalayan Railways (UNESCO World Heritage) and Himalayan Mountaineering Institute also signifies the importance of the queen of hills. Over the period a new phenomenon i.e. Homestay has become a popular concept in the hills and thousands of locals have transformed their houses into a home-stay option in order to cater to the growing demand from the tourists."He explained how during the COVID-19 crisis, several meetings with State Tourism Ministers and stakeholders were held to help the tourism industry people.
"In a very short time, a portal was started to register hotels so that they observe COVID-19 related SoPs and inspire confidence among the tourists," he said.
Patel added that due to the COVID-19 situation, domestic tourism is suddenly picking up and key tourist destinations are getting saturated. "The Indian tourist industry should seize this opportunity and quickly develop as many avenues of tourism as possible including homestays to meet the demand which is rising very fast," the Minister urged.
He also focused on the involvement of the local community in the tourism sector, which he said is of utmost importance in homestay tourism.
Patel said these homestays need a lot of assistance in capacity building for a better future of Darjeeling hills as a rural tourism hotspot.
"Development of these homestays through hospitality skill up-gradation would certainly make them self-reliant - Atmanirbhar," the Minister added. (ANI)