Bhubaneswar28/5/23:: Tourism Sector in Odisha has come a long way since the year 2000, when it was grappling with issues like disaster management and poverty. In particular, the development of tourism sector in Odisha has been unprecedented in the last 4 years.
Briefing the media after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik reviewed the activities and achievements of the Tourism Department, Additional Chief Secretary Tourism, Surendra Kumar conveyed that the budget of the Dept. of Tourism in the year 2022-23 is Rs 660 Crores in comparison to the budget of Rs 2.67 Crores in the year 2000-01, which is an increase of 24619% or 246.19 times which conveys the focus being given by the Govt. of Odisha towards the tourism sector. He further stated that the state has witnessed a massive growth in Tourist Footfall over the last 23 years.
The state welcomed 28,88,392 domestic tourists and 23,723 international tourists in the year 2000, which peaked in the year 2019 to 1,53,07,637 domestic tourists (increase of 433%) and 1,15,128 (increase of 385%) international tourists till the onset of COVID pandemic.
Along with quality road network within the state, increased flight connectivity to important destinations within and outside the country, low crime rate, excellent law and order situation, increased skill development base, and the stable government boosting investor confidence, the concerted efforts of the Department of Tourism have resulted in increased investment in tourism sector in the state and transformation of tourism sector in the state.
When travel restrictions were the norm during the pandemic years, Odisha Government took it as an opportunity to make substantial changes to develop a sustainable tourism ecosystem in the State.
Today, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik reviewed the progress made by the Department of Tourism in the past four years and fulfilment of the commitments made in the manifesto.
Presenting the details of the achievements, Hon’ble Minister Tourism & OLLC Shri Aswini Kumar Patra iterated the government’s promise towards creation of District Tourism Promotion Councils in the state; and to have MoU with SHGs for providing business opportunities in tourism. Fulfilling these two commitments, the Department has proactively formed Local Tourism Promotion Councils at prominent tourist destinations within the framework of Odisha Tourism Policy 2022. These councils will be under the chairmanship of District Collector. Further, the Tourism Department is in process of handing over 20 Way Side Amenities and 12 cafeterias located at prominent tourist destinations to Mission Shakti SHGs along with hand holding support and financial assistance.
Despite the COVID pandemic, the state has witnessed a domestic footfall of 37,42,221 and international footfall of 2,269 tourists in the year 2021, which is expected to increase further. In spite of a global pandemic like COVID and natural calamities like floods & cyclones, the tourism sector in the state has made a quick recovery and has bounced back. This is reflected with the entry of leading Global Hospitality and Amusement Park brands in the state over the last 4 years with investments more than Rupees 5000 Crores. Global Hospitality Brands like Taj Vivanta, ITC Welcom, Lemon Tree, Park Hotels and Novotel have forayed in the state with properties at Bhubaneswar and Gopalpur. In addition, the Taj Group and Swosti Group are coming up with Hotels at Puri. Further, India’s leading amusement park brand Wonderla is slated to open its 4th Amusement Park in the country at Bhubaneswar. The entry of such leading investors to the state speaks volumes about the tourism potential the state has to offer.
Further, the Addl. Chief Secretary Tourism highlighted the key interventions taken for responsible design of new and innovative tourism products, developed in line with the 5T framework.
- Expansion of highly successful responsible glamping festival, Eco Retreat Odisha, from one location in 2019 to seven unique ecotourism destinations in the State by 2022. This three-month glamorous camp which was developed to promote the State’s rich culture and biodiversity is an environmentally sustainable model incorporating best practices in material utilisation, zero liquid and sewerage discharge and holistic waste management. Through this project, lesser-known tourism destinations with high tourism potential were introduced to the people which included Satkosia, Bhitarkanika, Hirakud, Daringbadi, Putsil and Sonapur apart from Ramchandi Beach in Konark.
- Launch of Water-based Recreation at the Tampara Lakefront Project in Ganjam and Silver City Boat Club at Mahanadi river in Cuttack, which provides tourists with recreational facilities such as water sports – kayaks, jet skis, banana boats, etc. Cruise Tourism is another niche water-based recreation project Odisha is currently working on. Odisha’s 1st luxury houseboat was launched in 2022 in Chilika and works are underway to introduce cruise vessels in Hirakud and Chilika. It is pertinent to note here that the Tampara Lakefront Development Project won the award for the Best Cafeteria 2023 in the country by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme.
- Active investor facilitations and Odisha’s progressive Tourism Policy have helped welcome global hospitality brands and amusement park with investments worth more than INR 5000 Crore.
- Introduction of Culinary Tourism through launch of Nimantran – a chain of authentic Odia cuisine fine-dine restaurants in Bhubaneswar and Puri
- Transformation of the Hospitality Units under the Department of Tourism which included upgradation of accommodation units into luxury suites and introduction of Panthanivas branded multicuisine restaurant, bar and bakery.
- Transformation in IT infrastructure for promotion of tourism through www.odishatourism.gov.in , online booking portal www.bookodisha.com and mobile app Book Odisha. It may be noted here that www.odishatourism.gov.in, created on the Adobe Experience Manager platform is credited with winning the award for Best Tourism Website at the Tourism Excellence Awards by FICCI in 2019. www.odishatourism.gov.in , www.bookodisha.com
Besides, destination level development planning has been formulated owing to vast thematic tourism potential Odisha has such as beaches, heritage, waterbodies, etc. Holistic development of 15 priority destinations viz., Satkosia, Hirakud, Bhitarkanika, Chilika, Chandrabhaga beach front, Daringbadi, Talsari beach promenade, Khandagiri-Udayagiri, Deomali, Nrusinghanath-Harishankar, Dhabaeswar, Mahendragiri, Bakulabana, Dhauli and Raghurajpur through integrated tourism masterplans has been taken up to streamline systematic development of tourism destinations. Apart from this, development based on infrastructure gap assessment has been initiated for 33 identified tourism destinations in Odisha.
In 2016, Baristha Nagarika Tirtha Yatra Yojana was launched by Hon’ble Chief Minister. Under this scheme, pilgrimage tours to various parts of the country have been provided to more than 19,000 senior citizens of BPL families till date. As per the MoU signed between Odisha Tourism and IRCTC, 20 pilgrimage tours have been organised.
The State Government has undertaken proactive steps to develop tourism projects across Odisha to meet the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in a timely manner. Driven by the Odisha Tourism Policy 2022, which superseded the 2016 policy, the State Government envisages acceleration of growth in the tourism sector through professional management and private sector participation driven by lucrative investment opportunities.
Such active interventions by Tourism Department has helped increase tourist footfalls to the State, barring the dip during the pandemic years affecting the travel and tourism sector. The tourism sector is ever-changing and to keep pace with the demands, the tourism budget has also seen a quantum rise of 240% from INR 194.10 Cr in 2019-20 to INR 660 Cr in 2023- 24.
Inbound tourism in Odisha has gained even more prominence in the past few years and it is evident with the number of awards and recognition received by Odisha Tourism from prominent Industry Stakeholders such as UNWTO, FICCI, Skoch, Travel+Leisure, India Today, etc.