UK's Bengal Heritage Foundation is participating in the upcoming Bengal Global Business Summit on 7-8 February in Kolkata as a guest of British Council to speak about tourism, hospitality and creative industry. This comes as a follow up action from the meetings that the Bengal government held in London last year.
West Bengal's Minister of State for Sports and Youth Services Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Atri Bhattacharya, IAS, Principal Secretary of Tourism and Debanjan Chakrabarti, Director, East and North East India, British Council visited the UK for 10 days in August-September 2018, on the back of a Memorandum of Understanding that was signed in India between the Government of West Bengal and British Council on 6 July 2018, to build robust links with the UK’s festivals and cultural tourism sector, with several reciprocal projects in the pipeline that included discussions with London’s Totally Thames Festival for a river festival in Kolkata in 2019.
To speak about the dialogue between UK and Bengal regarding the promotion and strengthening of Bengal tourism and collaboration- especially in festival and diaspora engagements, Sourav Niyogi, President of the Bengal Heritage Foundation, will be participating in the summit at the Biswa Bangla Convention Centre, Kolkata. The diaspora which is called the 'living bridge', promises to help further economic ties and prosperity- an important part of this dialogue.
Speaking to Asian Voice exclusively, Debanjan Chakrabarti, Director, East and North East India, British Council said, “There are a number of things already happening to strengthen tourism, hospitality and creative sectors. Festival plays an important part in the entire eco-system that sustains it. We will create skills enhancing programme such as English for the tourism sector- a conversation we can help with, as the high-end tourists depend on it. We will also work towards having a river festival, which will be along the lines of the Totally Thames festival, to be hosted immediately after Durga puja this year.”
Among the various topics already in the pipeline of discussion includes a festival management program- a pillar of the British Council art strategy, to facilitate conversation and mediate consultancy between Edinburgh festivals and Kolkata, in order to replicate a perfect model, such as in the Bishnupur festival- and bring together diverse events to boost creative economy and tourism. In Kolkata earlier, Atri Bhattacharya had already hosted a roundtable in 2018, for Christopher Rodriguez, CBE, Chairman, British Council, to discuss a project involving twining of Hooghly and Thames as rivers and the port of London and Kolkata- because there are significant similarities between these rivers and ports and the cultures that have grown around them.
Sourav Niyogi, President of BHF, who is leaving for Kolkata on February 6th said, “Tourism creates a massive opportunity for both revenue generation and job generation. 1 in 10 jobs globally are in tourism sector which is one of the fastest growing sectors. Bengal has started to leverage the potential for tourism and if harnessed properly it will generate both revenue and job growth.
“In today’s world the diaspora provides an important connect. The success of this generation of Bengalis globally mean we are able to influence opinions a lot more. Bengal Heritage Foundation and London Sharad Utsav have worked together with British Council to create a platform for Bengal Tourism in the UK. The growth numbers of international tourists to Bengal is a reflection of the work the Tourism Department has done in last few years. It is a journey and Bengal Tourism is in early stages. Continuing on this journey will unlock the true potential of Bengal given its geographical and cultural attractions.”
School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, has also taken a delegation to Kolkata to participate in the BGBS.