Pradeep Pattanayak

Despite having a good number of exquisite and pristine tourist destinations, Odisha’s performance in attracting tourists is not up to the mark. The India Tourism Statistics-2022 released by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India has revealed so. 

The state couldn’t make it to the list of top ten states in terms of tourist footfall, proving tall claims of the Odisha government developing tourist destinations into world-class ones to be hollow to the core. 

For the state having been out of the list of top ten performers, people of the state feel dejected. 

In 2021, the state’s performance in attracting both domestic and foreign tourists is nothing to write home about. In domestic tourist ranking and foreign tourist ranking, Odisha’s position is 18th and 20th respectively. While 37,42,221 domestic tourists visited the tourist destinations across the state, the number of foreign tourists who visited the spots was abysmally low. It was 2,269. If compared to the footfall in 2020, the tourist footfall in 2021has drastically plummeted. In a nutshell, it can be said that the state failed in attract even one percent of the total number of tourists visited the spots. 

Odisha is also far behind in the category of ASI ticketed monuments. While none of the ASI ticketed monuments in Odisha was visited by foreign tourists last year, Konark’s Sun Temple was the only site visited by domestic tourists. But, the footfall was not that encouraging. So the site was placed on seventh rung. 

Despite having tourism circuit, Blue Flag beach, Eco Retreat, Eco Tourism and scores of fairs and festivals like Toshali National Crafts Mela and Konark Festival, the poor tourist footfall has laid bare the failure of the government. 

Lack of infrastructure at the tourist sites has to be thanked for this poor performance. “Khajuraho and Konark are two similar places, belonging to around the same time. But in Khajuraho, there is an airport and five to six five-star hotels. In comparison to that, Konark has nothing. After dusk, one can’t get even a cup of tea. This lack of infrastructure is due to entrepreneurs not coming to the spot. And it is land disputes that make entrepreneurs turning their faces from Konark. They are not getting lands to set up hotels,” observed Jugabrata Kar, a tour operator.

According to Debasish Kumar, a hotelier, the tourist spots in Odisha are not well connected by road, rail or air. “Though Biju Patnaik International Airport is called an international airport, it is in name only. Because, international flights neither land here nor take off from here. This apart, we don’t have flights to many cities.”

However, tourism director Sachin R Yadav attributed the poor footfall at tourist sites to Covid-induced lockdowns.  

“We are conducting road shows in Delhi, Rajasthan and Jeypore to get tourists from these locations back to Odisha. This year, the situation is believed to improve,” said Yadav.