Op-Ed: Lagging Behind in Tourism Promotion

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: Odisha’s tourism sector suffered massive losses in the wake of cyclone Fani which left behind a trail of destruction in several coastal districts, the worst affected being Puri and Khurda. On a rough estimate the loss has been to the tune of Rs.732 crore.

Puri being a major tourist hub of the state the damage to infrastructure caused by Fani had a direct impact on the tourist inflow to the town whose major attractions include the 12th century temple of lord Jagannath and an excellent beach. The town practically lay in tatters for nearly two months after being hit by Fani which had made landfall there.

No wonder tourist footfall in Puri and the sites around it was vastly reduced in the wake of the gale with roads in poor shape and hotels and guest houses struggling to undertake repairs. During the months of May and June hotels in Puri were not just not ready to welcome any guests. This resulted in bookings being cancelled and potential visitors changing their travel plans. Tour operators suffered massive losses.

While Puri suffered the most financial losses were also sustained by hotels and tour operators in places like Konark, Satpada and Bhubaneswar. The tourism sector will take some time to recover from these losses. But the situation arising out of Fani has raised some pertinent questions, the first and foremost of these being why did it take so long for the government to rebuild infrastructure damaged by Fani? The second and almost equally important question is why has the government failed to promote its other tourist attractions in the same manner as Puri.

Considering that power supply in several cyclone-hit villages of Puri district could not be restored even two months after the tragedy and people there are still struggling to rebuild their damaged houses question marks are bound to be raised over government’s efficiency. People expected a much better response from the administration which was found wanting.

On the other hand the government has failed to realise its full potential in the field of tourism due to lack of a proper marketing strategy. Odisha is full of unexplored temples, forests and beaches which need to be showcased to the outside world. We also need to develop world class infrastructure at these places to attract tourists.

In the last few years the only effort in this direction has been the drive to develop eco-tourism destinations at 30 places across 22 districts in the state. The state government has also set aside a sum of Rs.7.7 crore in the current budget for infrastructure development at ecotourism sites.

Work is believed to be at an advanced stage at most of these 30 sites including Mangaljodi on the banks of the famous Chilika lake which attracts lakhs of migratory birds during the winter. Mangaljodi, which is thronged by bird lovers between October and December, now boasts of a state-of-the-art bird interpretation centre for the benefit of the visitors.

Other sites being developed by the government include Barakhandia and Dhodrokusum under the Hirakud wildlife division, Kumari and Jamuani the under Baripada wildlife division, Deras and Godibari under the Chandaka wildlife division and Tarava and Chhotkei under the Satkosia wildlife division. This is a good initiative but we need to market our natural wealth aggressively in order to make the most of it.

(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.)