Column: Let’s Promote Tourism More Aggressively

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Odisha government’s decision to organise Marine Drive Eco Retreat festival near Konark from December 14 is obviously aimed at drawing more tourists, especially foreign tourists to the area which not only houses the world famous 13th century sun temple but also has an excellent beach and a beautiful wildlife sanctuary. The marine drive stretching from Konark’s Chandrabhaga beach to the outskirts of Puri town offers a fascinating view of the sea and the surrounding greenery.

Konark is part of the state’s famous golden triangle that also includes Puri and Bhubaneswar. This belt offers what most foreign tourists look for when they plan a visit to India—ancient temples with beautiful architecture and murals. The location of such sites close to the sea or wildlife sanctuaries is a bonus for them.

There is no denying the beauty and architectural excellence of temples in Odisha. The state is also richly endowed with Nature with lush green forests, fascinating wildlife retears and beaches that are yet to be explored fully. But despite this bounteous natural and cultural wealth, we have failed to attract foreign tourists on a scale that could justify the tourism potential the state holds.

The problem obviously lies in marketing and our inability to create the right kind of infrastructure at our tourist destinations. Even at well known tourist destinations like Konark and Puri, the infrastructure needs upgradation. The accommodation that the government provides to the visitors is certainly not the best and leaves much to be desired both in terms of maintenance and service. Had the private sector not entered the hospitality market in a big way the number of tourists visiting the state would have been much less.

Apart from creating the required tourist infrastructure the state government also needs to lobby with the Centre to promote our tourist sites. Recently BJP leaders from the state had made a strong pitch for the inclusion of Puri Jagannath temple and the sun temple at Konark in the list of the iconic tourist sites proposed in the maiden budget speech of finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman.

There was expected outrage in the state over the absence of any tourist site from Odisha in the list. Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik was the first to shoot off a letter to the union tourism minister urging him to include at least two sites from the state in the list.

“Odisha houses a mesmerising array of tourism sites, from ancient to modern, and from manmade marvels to nature’s most captivating abodes, some of which are Konark Sun Temple, Chilika Lake, Bhitarkanika National Park, Simlipal National Park and Diamond Triangle Buddhist Circuit,” he wrote.

This was followed by an appeal to the union tourism minister from state’s BJP MPs for the inclusion of the 12th Jagannath temple at Puri and the Sun Temple at Konark, a 13th century architectural marvel, in the central list and budgetary provisions for their comprehensive development.

The move elicited a positive response from the Centre but the question is why was Odisha’s claim to find a place in the list ignored in the first place? The answer is simple: we ought to be more aggressive about protecting our interests and promoting what we think we can showcase to our advantage. Tourism is one area where we must follow this mantra. At the same time, we should also do our best to create the right kind of infrastructure to draw tourists to the state.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)