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Sharmili Mallick

Konark: The footfall of foreign tourists to the 13th century Sun Temple in Konark has considerably declined in the recent years stroking concerns among the people.

Sources said the number of foreign tourists visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site have decreased to half in the last twenty years.

Reports said around 14 lakh tourists visited the historic monument in the year 2000. Out of which, the number of foreign nationals were more than 13,000.

As per available data, 8,500 foreigners visited the temple in 2010-11 while the number increased to 9,137 in the year 2011-12.

Around 5,596 people visited the temple in 2017, registering the lowest number of footfall in two decades.

Although the number of tourists visiting Odisha was more than 84,000 last year, the decrease in the tourists visiting the Sun Temple has now fueled speculations over the matter.

Experts point fingers at lack of infrastructural development as the prime reason behind such development. This apart, maintenance issues, intolerance and lack of coordination between different organisations of the ancient town leading to regular protests have also added to the decline.

There are no star-category hotels in Konark and foreign tourists neither do nor prefer local restaurants so it is a big issue. If they don’t find proper place to stay why would they come here again? Konark tourism officer, Sarojkanta Pradhan said adding that the government is making provisions for providing land bank for setting up hotels.

“The environment that would woo the tourists to Konark is not being maintained properly. The infrastructural development required to attract the foreigners is also not up to the mark due to which there is a decline in their footfalls,” informed a guide Abhash Mohanty.

On the other hand, the Panchaligeswar Temple, the Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary in Balasore district and Jagannath Temple in Puri have registered an increase in the footfalls of the tourists in recent years.

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