Suryakant Jena

The scenic, serene and sublime, Odisha Tourism is all set to open doors to visitors after nearly two years of staying off the grid in the wake of Covid crisis as the setting in of winter--which brings a windfall in business every year-- is expected to rejuvenate the pandemic-battered industry. 

In order to infuse the much-needed thrust to the ailing sector, the State government has decided to roll out several initiatives this year like classical dance events, musical festivals, and eco-retreats at 7-8 places.

Apart from that, the government has also decided to accord state-level festival tags to Koraput Parab and Baripada Chhau Utsav and celebrate the galas.

With the success of Odisha Tourism Development Corporation's ‘Nimantran’ restaurant in Bhubaneswar, the OTDC is also set to open similar restaurants at Puri Blue Flag Beach and Rani Bakhri (Queen’s Palace) of Sambalpur as part of the chain of such hotels to serve authentic Odia cuisine to visitors from outside the State. 

As per sources, famous tourist destinations in Puri, Gopalpur, Konark, Chilika, Paradip, Daringbadi, Koraput, in the State have already started to witness a flurry of visitors in the past few days registering a significant rise in businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector. 

However, the prevalent Covid curbs on foreign visitors is still said to be a sore spot in the revival of the tourism space in the State. In view of the situation, most of the tour operators are also unwilling to open shutters. 

Ashok Maharana, Director of Sand Pebbles Group said, "The onset of winter has led to a rise in the incoming of domestic visitors. In case we manage to avert a third wave of the pandemic, we expect the tourist footfall will gradually rise to its full capacity." 

Similarly, Debasish Mohapatra, Proprieter of K-7 Holiday Resorts said that despite an increase in the hotel occupancy, tour operators have mostly been left high and dry. 

It may be noted that Odisha had welcomed a total of 1.17 crore tourists to the State in 2015 and 1.28 crore in 2016. The figures climbed up to touch 1.40 crore in 2017 before the state received a record-breaking 1.52 crore and 1.53 crore tourists in the year 2018 and 2019, respectively. 

However, the tourism sector came to a grinding halt last year after the outbreak of Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. The footfall of tourists plummeted more than 70% due to the restrictions and came down to 46 lakh in 2020.