“Odisha has lot to offer to its visitors with its magnificent cultural heritage, pristine forests, vast coastline, rich biodiversity and exclusive cuisine” mentioned Naveen Patnaik, Chief Minister of Odisha while addressing the inaugural ceremony of 33rd IATO Annual Convention in Bhubaneswar. Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) is organising its 3-day Annual Convention from 7th – 10th September 2017 in association with Odisha Tourism. More than 1,000 tour operators, tour guides, hoteliers, travel writers, bloggers and other professionals attended the gala ceremony.
This convention aims to provide an important platform for exchange of ideas by various stakeholders including the govt. – both state and central and to promote the sustained and accelerated development of tourism industry in the country. The convention is also going to witness series of talks and deliberations to promote Odisha as the next tourism hotspot with its unique features and specialities.
Speaking at the occasion, KJ Alphons, Union Minister for Tourism and IT invoked the members and audience present to make the world come to a great and gifted place like India and Odisha and pledged to have as many as 20 million tourist footfalls by the next year.
More than 12 million domestic and around 80,000 foreign tourists are visiting Odisha every year and the number is upward by 9 to 10 percent annually. According to the Odisha Tourism sources, presently the growth of tourist arrival to the state is about 9 percent which is more than the global tourist arrival of 4 percent. It’s high time for Odisha to get its due prominence in tourism map of India.
Welcoming the guests to the convention Ashok Chandra Panda, State Minister for Tourism and Culture said “increased national and international air connectivity to the state is an added incentive for the visitors to Odisha. The Odisha State Tourism Policy, which was enacted in 2016 has paved the way for investors with lucrative capital subsidies and all out support to bridge the infrastructure gap to woo global tourists to the region”.
Pronab Sarkar, the ITAO President remarked on the recent implementation of GST rates, which has heavily affected the tour operators, hoteliers, guides and even small scale tour entertainers with higher tax liabilities. He urged to the govt. to relax the tax slabs as this might cause havoc in the industry in longer run. “Odisha is an untapped region and the state has some of the stunning and attractive tourist destinations which are unexplored. With aggressive marketing and promotional activities the inflow of foreign tourists to Odisha will be multi folded in coming years” he added.
Among others Mrs. Rashmi Verma, Union Secretary for Tourism, Dr. Mona Sharma, State Principal Secretary for Tourism, Ananta Narayan Jena, Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation Mayor, Bijaya Mohanty, MLA, Bhubaneswar Central, Priyadarshi Mishra, MLA, Bhubaneswar North, Prasanna Patasani, MP and Rajiv Mehra, Vice President IATO were present in the function.
Mr. JK Mohanty, IATO Eastern Region Chairman & CMD, SWOSTI Group received the ‘IATO Hall of Fame Award’ for his noteworthy contribution to the hospitality and travel industry in the occasion.
Internationally acclaimed Odia sprinter and Olympian Dutee Chand was also felicitated by IATO.