Odisha Channel Bureau
Bhubaneswar: Around 40 ecotourism destinations, including beach resorts, hill stations in tribal belts, forests and nature camps, will be opened in Odisha after the situation arising out of COVID-19 pandemic improves and these shall give a new and unique identity to the state, said Director, Odisha Tourism, Sachin Ramchandra Jhadav.
Jhadav was attending a webinar – Investment and Entrepreneurship Opportunities in Tourism in Odisha organised by Odisha Corporate Foundation (OCF), a non-profit organisation, on Friday.
“The pandemic has badly affected the tourism sector across the globe due to travel restrictions and economic slump; it is no better in Odisha. In such a situation, the state government is planning to promote ecotourism on a priority basis,” said Jhadav.
Odisha is blessed with 485 km of coastline and around 40 per cent of forest cover with well-preserved natural landscapes offering proper ground for ecotourism. The rich heritage, art, natural and biodiversity-rich forests, vast beaches, along with the rich tradition and culture of Odisha have been attracting tourists and nature lovers from across the world.
The Tourism department has been taking all possible measures to popularise handicrafts and traditional cuisines of the state, besides maintaining and renovating the tourists’ spots, Jhadav said.
He said the department always encourages entrepreneurs and investors for development and promotion of tourism. The state has 300 acre of land bank, which investors can use for hotels, resorts, conference halls, theme parks and entertainment zones. The state government has established a Single Window Clearance mechanism to sanction investment proposals. The department hopes that in the next couple of years, the state will get a prominent place on the world tourism map, he added.
“The state is taking up a slew of projects for promotion of the tourism industry, but it has miles to go so far as its hotel industry is concerned,” said Chairman of Hotel and Restaurants Association of Odisha (HRAO) J K Mohanty. While states like Kerala and Maharashtra have 93 and 90 star hotels respectively, Odisha has only nine. It is high time the state took measures to enrich its hospitality industry, he added.
The Shamuka Beach Project, once functional, in Puri would not only enrich the state’s economy, it would also attract tourists from across the globe. The hotel industry would also benefit from it, Mohanty pointed out.
“We need to prepare and promote good quality videos of our tourist spots, besides pulling mega investors like Disney World,” Mohanty said, adding that the Swosti Group, of which he is the promoter, is going to set up a Beach Resort in Puri soon.
Odisha is still lagging behind so far as infrastructure, communication, transportation and other factors responsible to enrich the tourism sector are concerned, said former member, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Prasanna Dash, while comparing the tourism sector in Odisha with that of Madhya Pradesh and Kerala.
“We need to build more museums to showcase our rich history and heritage; create infrastructure for trekking and rafting expeditions and scuba diving. Apart from modernizing our hospitality industry, the department should also ensure availability of guides conversant with multiple foreign languages. We also need to ensure basic facilities like clean and functional toilets, safe drinking water supply and a clean and healthy ambience in the accommodation facilities for tourists,” Dash noted, urging the state government to replace the existing boats for tourists in Chilika and Bhitarkanika with new boats having modern facilities.
Dash also emphasised on the need for expeditiously implementing the Shamuka Beach Project and added that the tourism industry should not be dependent on the state government only; young entrepreneurs and investors should come forward to develop this sector. He requested the state government to prioritise medical tourism and attract mega investors in order to give tourism a global status.
Former Chief Secretary of Odisha Bijay Kumar Patnaik said the state government, on a priority basis, should work for the all-round development of 6-7 important tourists’ spots and go for development of others in a phased manner. He proposed that OCF should form a committee for this and come forward to support the government.