Mumbai: Odisha, the ‘Soul of Incredible India’, is living the tourism dream with the State Government clearing 12 investment projects in the sector worth around Rs. 585 crore. Keen to increase tourist footfalls in the eastern state, the Odisha Government has shown the green light to the development of ecotourism destinations endowed with natural wealth. The project, a joint venture of the Departments of Tourism and Forest & Environment, is being executed at 30 places in 22 districts. While the Department of Forest & Environment is developing the required tourist infrastructure at these places, most of which are wildlife sanctuaries and water bodies, the Department of Tourism is undertaking global marketing and communications.
“At ITB 2018, we promoted our wildlife & ecotourism products, heritage & culture trails, and the Buddhist circuit” – Dr. Nitin B Jawale IAS, Director, Odisha Tourism and MD, Odisha Tourism Development Corporation
Tourism receipts too have recorded a spike. Sources said the State Government earned nearly Rs. 388.05 crore last year (till November 2017) from foreign tourist arrivals. In 2016, it was around Rs. 350 crore. Dr. Nitin B Jawale IAS, Director, Tourism, and Managing Director, Odisha Tourism Development Corporation, said, “At ITB 2018, we promoted our wildlife and ecotourism products, heritage and cultural trails, and the Buddhist circuit.”
Ecotourism initiatives are being planned and implemented by the Department of Tourism in association with the Department of Forest & Environment. In February 2018, Chilika Lake emerged as the single largest habitat of Irrawaddy dolphins in the world.
“Last year, Odisha Tourism conducted roadshows in Varanasi, Bodhgaya, Raipur, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad to promote domestic tourism.”
With regard to foreign tourist arrivals in 2017, USA, UK, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, China, Netherlands, Australia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) were the top 10 contributors. The State recorded 9.23 per cent growth in total tourist arrivals with over 1.3 crore tourists, including one lakh plus foreigners, visiting the state in 2017, which is an all-time high. “With an aim to attract more foreign tourists to Odisha, the State Government will organize roadshows in these 10 countries in 2018,” Nitin said. “In 2017, over 10,000 tourists visited the state for ecotourism.”
Officials of the Department of Forest & Environment said, “Infrastructure development work was in an advanced stage at several places, including Mangaljodi on the banks of the famous Chilika Lake. Known as the bird watchers’ paradise, Mangaljodi now has a state-of-the-art bird interpretation center. At least a dozen rooms, watchtowers and nature trails are being established.”
“There is a paucity of classified hotel rooms in Odisha. In this regard, the Government is auctioning 10 identified plots for construction of hotels in Bhubaneswar and has directed to identify sites in Bhubaneswar, Puri, Daringibadi, Koraput, Rayagada, and other tourist destinations. The State Government is creating a land bank of 1,000 acres for development of tourism sector along with several new hotel chains in the state. We have reached out to all major hospitality brands to come and set up properties here with the Government’s support”.
Bhubaneswar is well connected to South East Asian destinations by air. Direct flights connecting Bhubaneswar to Kuala Lumpur were introduced by Air Asia in April 2017.
Odisha, especially capital city Bhubaneswar, is trying to position itself as a sports hub of global repute. Its acclaim as India’s only Smart City in The World’s Top 20 Smart City List 2017, is helping in this direction. In 2018, Odisha announced its sponsorship of the National hockey teams – both Men and Women, for five years. Bhubaneswar is now making elaborate arrangements to host the Men’s Hockey World Cup 2018 from November 28 to December 16.
Odisha secured an assistance of Rs.76.5 crore from the Central Government for development of its coastal circuit under the ‘Swadesh Darshan’ scheme. An amount of Rs. 15.3 crore has been released as the first instalment.
Government of India’s PRASAD (Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive) scheme has included Puri in the first list of 12 destinations. Funds to the tune of Rs. 10 crore were sanctioned in the first phase. Puri also received Rs.50 crore under the Government of India’s HRIDAY (Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana) scheme.