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Orissa Tourism – Long way ahead to touch the mark

"Goa has made amazing progress marking the highest in the tourism sector. The government deserves applause for the way it has turned its natural assets into commercial endeavour, thus making huge revenues for the state. On the contrary, although Orissa has every potential to be a world-class tourist destination, the state stands nowhere among preferred sightseeing spots in the country."

Lisa Pradhan : January 8, 2009

Walking along the shoreline of the beautiful beaches of Goa - the waves lashing against my feet, cooling my senses - images of Orissa crossed my mind again and again. I assume I was the only restless one, from amongst thousand other tourists who were completely immersed in the magnificence of the Goaan Sunset.

 

For a state which was an union territory until some years back and boasts of a meager population and dimensions in compare to most other states of India, Goa has made amazing progress marking the highest in the tourism sector. The government deserves applause for the way it has turned its natural assets into commercial endeavour, thus making huge revenues for the state. On the contrary, although Orissa has every potential to be a world-class tourist destination, the state stands nowhere among preferred sightseeing spots in the country.

 

Majority of the overseas tourists are familiar with the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur triangle, and thus, Orissa features nowhere among the tourist maps worldwide unlike Karnataka that has been ranked as fourth most popular destination for tourism among states of India. With its 507 out of the 3600 centrally protected monuments, Karnataka has the second highest number of protected monuments in India, next only to Uttar Pradesh. The state government is leaving no stone-unturned in order to boost the sector.

The search for spirituality and tranquility brings many to Puri and often these ignorant tourists face the wrath of touts. The activities of these crooks both inside and outside the dham are just giving Orissa Tourism a bad name. On a pleasure trip to Orissa, one tourist from Delhi said that the management of the Jaggannath temple should be made upto the standards of Vaishnodevi, which provides transparency for all donations made to the temple.

However, for S. K. Dash who has been visiting the dham regularly from West Bengal since the past 40 years along with family members, the sacred town needs to be more restructured to accommodate the ever increasing tourist population, especially during occasions like Rath Yatra, Dussera, Christmas and New Year.

Tourists from all over the country, mainly West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Bihar, flock into the sacred town every year especially during Christmas and New Year. As compared to the previous five years, 2008 witnessed a substantial growth in the number of tourists. The total number of tourists last year in comparison with 2007 had increased by 15.5 percent. Out of the 62,53,897 tourists who visited Orissa last year, about 43,311 were overseas tourists.

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Boasting of a shoreline of 482 kms, Orissa has some of the finest beaches in India. With a rich tradition of art and craft and a vibrant culture, Orissa provides the perfect blend of old world charm and ultra modern amenities. The Golden Triangle comprising Bhubaneswar-Puri-Konark is not only a cluster of decorative temples and monuments that speak of ancient Orissan glory but the triangle also offers variety of sights and spots for fun tourism. Puri, one of the four holiest places in India is famous for its Jaggannath temple and exquisite traditional art and craft. The Sun temple at Konark is a world heritage site.

Joranda, Sambalpur and Dhabaleswar attract tourists for their divine importance. Gopalpur offers one of the longest sand beaches. Phulbani, Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar are home to rich tribal culture while Simlipal and Bhitarakanika boast of rich wildlife. Rock-edicts that have challenged time stand huge on the banks of the river Daya. The torch of Buddhism is still ablaze in the sublime triangle at Udaygiri, Lalitgiri and Ratnagiri, on the banks of river Birupa. Classical and ethnic dance forms, pristine beaches and a variety of festivals make Orissa the most potential state to emerge as an important tourist destination. 

Publicity is still an issue with Orissa tourism. During the Konark festival this year, a foreign tourist came up with complains that foreign tourists don’t get the itineraries of annual festivals planned by Orissa Tourism before time. He even observed that the official website of Orissa tourism is hardly satisfying to foreign tourists.

However, realizing the revenues the tourism sector can generate for the state’s economy, Government has made an additional allocation of Rs 1 crore for tourism publicity compared to the Rs 6.5 crore allocated last year. Also the Orissa Tourism Department has proposed for tie-ups with the Rajasthan Government through MoUs (memorandum of understanding) as well as Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO).

While the MoU with the Rajasthan government is for joint promotion of tourism products of the two states, the agreement with IATO is for offering training to professionals engaged in tourism and hospitality sectors in Orissa. The state tourism ministry also plans to set up special tourism offices in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Goa and to appoint special tourism officers, some of whom may be posted outside Orissa for promoting the state’s tourism products.

The STPO (State Tourism Promotion Officer) scheme would be worth while where tourism officers would be posted across the world to mobilize business for the state by popularising Orissa as a centre of monumental and fun tourism. Once implemented, this scheme, apart from generating employment, would also help attracting overseas tourists into the state and generating good business. However, Orissa tourism already employs a large number of travel agents and tour operators to develop and sell special Orissa packages. It is also planning to involve non-resident Oriyas for promotion of Orissa as an international tourist destination.

But, here again, the major issues are infrastructure and service facilities. Recently, a group of European tourists who visited Paradeep had a very bad experience and instead of exploring Orissa’s scenic beauty further, they rather preferred to go back. The incident gave a very bad image to the state.

Tourism is one of the state’s biggest commercial endeavours that greatly help in the image building. Tourism improves a state’s public relations. So, it’s high time for the state government to truly treat the sector as an industry and implement effective measures to give it a professional shape. If all the schemes are implemented well, the big day might soon come when the state would get its recognition internationally, at least once for all the right reasons.

 

 

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