Kolkata: West Bengal's capital city will make a mark on the tourism radar with its first helium balloon rides starting early next year.

"In India, Kolkata is the second city to have such a facility for tourists. The first helium balloon rides were initiated in Ahmedabad," said an official of the Kolkata Improvement Trust (KIT) that is partnering with Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) for the initiative.

Filled with around 6,500 cubic metres of helium, the balloon rides will take off from a specially built park near the Calcutta Rowing Club. "We had to ensure the space was open and without any interfering tree cover.

The park will have ticket booths, food kiosks and will be spread over an area of 7,000 square metres," the KIT official said on Tuesday. Enthusiasts can get a bird's-eye view of the city and its famed edifices, including the Victoria Memorial, from a height of 400 feet.

"The balloon will have a gondola at its base and will be operated by an electronic winch that will lower or raise the structure. It will have a capacity of around 20 to 30 passengers," said the official. "A single balloon can last for around 10 years. It does not need refilling before that," said the official.

The state government has invited proposals on operating the balloon, which is yet to be bought. Fares of rides will be fixed once the balloon is operational, the official said.


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