OdishaPlus Bureau

The integrated tourism development objectives of Odisha not only focuses on sustainable infrastructural development, but it also aims at branding Odisha as a diverse tourism hub, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said at the ‘Odisha Tourism Conclave 2023’ in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.

In a video message at the inaugural session of the one-day event held at Hotel Swosti Premium, Patnaik said, “The Odisha Govt is committed towards sustainable development of tourism sector with much focus on augmentation of livelihood of local people. Moreover, we are aiming at establishing Odisha as a tourism hub of global standards.”

He said to enable more development friendly tourism strategy, the new Odisha Tourism Policy was unveiled during the recently concluded MIO 20223 conclave. The government is presently working on integrated tourism development, based on 15 destination master plans, to develop diverse tourism platform in the state.

Congratulating the Hotel & Restaurant Association of Odisha (HRAO) on hosting the 5th edition of the marquee conclave, the CM said, “Odisha is a land blessed with nature’s bounty. Responsible tourism is imbibed in both our culture and development vision of the state.”

Inaugurating the conclave, Chairman HRAO, J K Mohanty thanked Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for declaring Tourism as a priority sector in the state tourism policy and also making the state the sports capital of the country. He said the Dot.Fest in Bhubaneswar which coincided with the hockey world cup offered an opportunity to hotels to present international cuisines to tourists from home and abroad.

He said while the state has made significant strides in tourism sector, it has been omitted from the list of Iconic Destinations in the country which was released recently. He urged MP Rajya Sabha Sujeet Kumar, who was present on the dais, to take up the issue with the Ministry of Tourism and include the Sun Temple at Konark and Chilika lake in the list. He also urged the MP to work towards making Odisha the venue for the G20 meeting on Tourism sector. Along with that, he appealed the MP to introduce luxury train connectivity between Puri and Kolkata and an airport in Ganjam district to further boost tourism in the state.

Speaking on ‘Sports Tourism Leading Odisha’, Dilip Tirkey, President Hockey India, said Odisha has considerably benefitted from the synergy between sports and tourism sectors pioneered by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. “On account of the World Cup/s (hockey), foreign and domestic tourist inflow into the state witnessed tremendous rise. Moreover, in India too, there has been a growth in sports tourism culture. In future, sports and tourism will go hand in hand.”

Addressing the gathering, Additional Chief Secretary, Dept of Tourism, Govt of Odisha, Surendra Kumar said that tourism in Odisha should focus on the affordability of the majority middle class tourists coming to the state, without compromising on quality. “It is the experience of the tourists that matters for the growth of tourism. We should focus on making that enriching for the visitors and thereby can push for 7 nights stay in the state rather than 3 nights,” he added.

Speaking on the focus area of Odisha tourism, he said while work on niche segments like Yacht and Caravan tourism is underway, the immediate focus is on promoting Weekend Tourism in the vicinity of big cities like Cuttack and Bhubaneswar. “It can be developed like what we see in Bangalore where families take weekend short drives to Mysore or other nearby places,” he said.

Moreover, after the commencement of the Jeypore airport, plans are afoot to develop Deomali as an   important wedding destination on the Eastern coast, like Rajasthan in Western India. He said the scheduled international airport near Puri will prop up growth in the tourism hub.

In his virtual address, Puneet Chhatwal, MD, Taj Group of Hotels, said, “Travel & Tourism is a major growth engine for any country. The sector has been a major employment generator.  Of the projected 120 million jobs to be created globally by travel and tourism sector in post-COVID era, 20% will be in the Sub-continent. Therefore, there is a pressing need to confer infrastructure status to the sector both at GoI and state levels along with maximum subsidy and incentives,” he said while reiterating the TAJ Group’s commitment to support the growth of tourism infrastructure in Odisha.

Speaking on the occasion, Rajiv Mehra, President, Indian Association of Tour Operators, called upon the stakeholders to develop Odisha as a major Buddhist tourism destination. “Odisha is at an advantageous position to harness tourism and can play its role as a major Buddhist tourism destination. We must focus on Buddhist tourism and make Odisha part of the Buddhist circuit ASAP,” he said adding that the goal must be accompanied with a focus on more air connectivity to the state. He said the Govt should focus on the health, hygiene and safety of tourists along with infrastructural development in its tourism promotion.

MP Sujeet Kumar in his address said the Govt of Odisha, under the visionary leadership of Hon’ble CM Shri Naveen Patnaik, is committed to the development of Tourism in the State. “Very soon, we will have the Utkala airport at Kalahandi in the aviation map of the country,” he said.

Kumar said the tourism sector is very important for development as it generates around 5 per cent of the country’s GDP and generates 8-10 percent of employment. “The conclave will generate considerable thought for the development of the sector in Odisha,” he added.