(Principal Correspondent)

Odisha has immense tourism features to attract the globe trotters and the Govt. is ready to offer Spl Package to Indian Tour Operators and invite them to be a part of the tourism growth story

Odisha has all the elements to attract both domestic and foreign tourists in large numbers. But somewhere it needs a kick to align the immense tourism potential with the diversified interest of the globe trotters. The tours and travel operators here play an important role. This was the talking point at the Annual Convention of Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO), currently in session at Temple City, Bhubaneswar.
“We invite all the members of IATO to bring any category of tourists of any size to any destination in Odisha, we will provide them the best hospitality and experience. We can coordinate and plan special packages for you and have a synchronized cell in Odisha Tourism Development Corporation to handle the same”, assured Dr. Mona Sharma, Principal Secretary, Dept of Tourism, Govt. Of Odisha, at the panel discussion on the topic of Odisha – the making of an Exciting Tourism Destination.
 Referring to the presentation made by her department at the event she further said that Odisha has a diversified bouquet to attract both foreign and domestic tourists. “Starting from Monuments, Eco Tourism sites, Buddhist Heritage, Art and Crafts, Magnificent Fairs and Festivals to Serene Beaches and Rural and Tribal tourism, Odisha has many things to offer to the guests” She invited the key stakeholders of tour business to develop special packages for Odisha if possible for the current season. “My department will develop the special packages for you and give necessary support if you come up with proposals”
“Odisha Govt. has developed a unique tourism policy. Moreover our chief minister is very passionate about developing tourism and making Odisha a preferred global destination” she added in her presentation.
Participating in the panel Mr. JK Mohanty, Hotel and Hospitality veteran and CMD of Swosti Group highlighted the features those can pull tourists from all over the globe. He requested potential investors to invest in Odisha tourism and grab the opportunities offered by the govt. Specifically he referred about the land bank the govt. has  created to develop greater infrastructure for the industry. “The govt. has announced subsidy on the capital investment and on the interest component too. This will be a great relief for any hospitality entrepreneur to be a part of the growth story here” he commented. This is the right time and we should not miss the bus said Mr. Mohanty to the gathering of who’s who of Indian travel industry.
Odisha has got a large chunk of forest cover and having number of national parks and sanctuaries. These sites are protected and earlier they were not offering so many features as they do today. The unique attractions of Eco and Wildlife tourism from Odisha include breeding sites of Olive Ridley turtle and unique destination like Bhitarkanika. “Our dept. has developed all amenities for the tourists who like to have experience on the lap of nature. In fact Odisha would be one of the destinations in eco tourism having maximum number of unexplored locales in India” said Sandeep Tripathy, Chief Wildlife Warden, GoO. He further said that the forest dept. has developed websites carrying all relevant information on those destinations. “Any operator or tourist today can straightaway book or cancel on the portal itself” he informed.
During the presentation, Mr. Tripathy also showed a brief video highlighting the unique and incredible experience which invites the nature lovers to explore Odisha. Apart from wildlife flora and fauna, the tourists can also experience tribal culture existing in the forest.
Mr. Gagan Sarangi, IATO state chapter Chairman lauded the steps of the Odisha Govt. in supporting the stakeholders in terms of policy, operations and incentives. He thus invited his counterparts to participate and contribute to the making of Odisha as an exciting tourism destination.
While referring to the question of adequate infrastructure in the sector he said that “It will take some time to build them to match the need and future expectation of the tourists, however within the available facilities and the rare stories that Odisha offers we can explore the trade to a great extent.
While the other panellists spoke vividly on the potential of Odisha tourism and the business opportunities that can unfold, Pronab Sarkar, the President IATO, looked at the whole thing on a critical note. “Once it was Rajasthan then came Goa and later it was Kerala which was highlighted immensely in the field of Tourism and now Madhya Pradesh, the fourth state has entered the realm. Similarly today Bhubaneswar has become a tourist friendly city having good infrastructure and connectivity. Moreover Odisha is offering the best tourism policy in the country. But people will look at the opportunities when the infrastructure is in place and adequate.”
Mr. Sarkar further said that Odisha should focus on developing infrastructure and attracting more domestic tourists. With the growth in the number of domestic tourists the infra can be flourished further and also the state can attract more number of foreign tourists. When the things are in place more and more investors will come to the state. While saying this he also advised the govt. to enhance the capacity of the airport with more direct connectivity with different global destinations.
“Using the platform of IATO, we are in touch with Govt. of India and with other state govts. Through our respective state chapters we are trying to promote every state so that tourism becomes a passion of every Indian. We need to welcome all be it foreign tourist or domestic tourist. Even the domestic tourists are important because they largely contribute to different states’ economy”, Mr. Sarkar urged his fraternity.
The panel discussion was moderated by senior journalist and Editor, Express Travel World, Reema Lokesh. The session was attended by the visiting members of IATO, Govt. officials, local entrepreneurs and media.