The Department of Tourism of the government of Odisha recently held a roadshow in Delhi to promote Odisha Travel Bazaar 2017. The aim of the roadshow was to promote the conference as well as the state and its diverse tourism products in the northern part of India. Speaking at the event, Ashok Panda, Minister of Tourism, Govt. of Odisha shared several initiatives taken by the state government to boost footfalls in the state.

Ashok Chandra PandaThe ninth largest state in the country, in terms of size, Odisha is an unexplored tourism asset and the state has been vying for a share of the national footfalls for a very long time. In the recent years, there has been a visible upward tick in social indicators, infrastructure and hotels in the state – the most recent being the 7-star resort at the Chilika Lake by the Swosti Group. In a bid to further the outreach, the state government is slated to host the Odisha Travel Bazaar 2017.  Speaking at the event to promote the upcoming roadshow, Ashok Panda, Minister of State for Tourism and Culture argued that there were “various potentials and opportunities that were available in terms of tourism in the state for whosoever wanted to avail them.” “We are known for our courage, our excellence in art and today the state boasts of untapped tourism potential. I am sure Odisha Travel Bazaar would definitely help the cause of tapping these tourism potentials,” he said.

 Adding that the 2016 tourism policy had been very proactive whether it was for land banks, coastlines, incentives, subsidies etc., he said “ we are inviting a lot of players to harness the tourism potential of the state and I am particularly hopeful that hotel groups, especially those interested in eco-tourism and adventure tourism, realise that we are second to none in India.”

He said that the focus needed to shift from the west towards the eastern and north-eastern side of the country and strongly urged tour operators to start looking towards these locations to promote travel.

“We are a state which is aspiring to get in to the big league of tourism. In fact, we are knocking on the doors of the big league of tourism and I hope with our sustained efforts and guidance of the minister, we will be able to make it in a couple of years. We are at a stage where we are ready to cater to a large number of tourists if they choose to come here,” said Nitin B Jawale, Director and Additional Secretary, Department of Tourism, Government of India, speaking at the event. Jawale said that increased connectivity in the state had also ensured a steady increase in footfalls. “It (the state) is very well connected now, by rail as well as air. In fact, air connectivity is something that has increased by leaps and bounds in the last five years.  There has been a 200-300% increase in air connectivity in the last five years. Even the road connectivity is very good,” said Jawale. “Interestingly, there have been allegations that most of our efforts have gone in to promoting and developing the Bhubaneswar-Konark-Puri circuit while other areas have missed out. We have been having discussions with the Ministry of Tourism to promote the Buddhism circuit in the state as well,” he added. He also highlighted how the state has a very large forest cover which meant various opportunities to promote adventure as well as experiential tourism. “It (the forest cover) is the highest for any mainland state in India and that is something we are looking forward to developing as well,” Jawale said.

Talking about stronger air-connectivity, driven by Indian carriers coming in to the state for international operations, Jawale said “we have approached many carriers and they have shown interest. Any carrier which has international operations is welcome to come and start operating from here.” All in all, the state tourism department has been making dedicated efforts to uplift the entire tourism sector of the state but the likely impact of policies and decisions being planned and rolled out by the government remains to be seen.