Odisha Tourism concludes COVID protocol training for travel, hospitality sector


Bhubaneswar: Odisha Tourism, in collaboration with IITTM, on Wednesday conducted the second workshop under the series “The New Normal” for COVID-19 related preparedness.

Over 100 delegates from four associations attended the workshop, which included sessions on operational and manpower management related SOPs.

“Hospitality and travel are two important wheels. Hence we have conducted this vast and inclusive workshop”, said Director Tourism.

Benjamin Simon, MD of Travelink and an experienced voice in the industry conducted the session on operational SOPs.

“The travel & hospitality took the first hard hit and is by its inherent nature, the last to recover. It will take at least three years to recover to pre-pandemic scenario. But the proactiveness of the Govt Of Odisha in innovating our way out of the hibernation through the Eco Retreat is a collective opportunity to us all. Our collective voice needs to loudly confirm that we are amongst the safest destinations”, said Simon.

Department of Tourism endorsed the thoughts of the industry about the need to organise a sector stimulus to complement the new product development efforts.

“Odisha has a deep rooted brand identity as Kalinga in Asia Pacific, especially with its pivotal role in the evolution of Buddhism. We must together leverage this in our efforts at revival. We are envisioning chartered flights carrying high value tourists from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, etc. to Odisha. Let’s be optimistic about our future,” said Simon.

Tourism secretary Vishal Dev in his address said, “The idea was to touch every stakeholder about the importance of adherence to protocols. Our conviction in our message of safety assurance is founded in our diligence on protocols. When we began our process for revival through our flagship products and festivals, we were not sure about the results.
“But after Chief Minister declared Tourism open in October, things fell into place. Konark Festival, the first cultural festival in the country since opening up, was highly appreciated by tourists and performers as very well organised, especially given its adherence to protocols”, said Dev.

“Just when things started looking bright, the international tourism scenario has again been hit by new virus mutations. Hence we need to focus on the national market. Now, as regards relief measures, we are not thinking piece meal, but devising a comprehensive mechanism. I assure you that we will institutionalise a robust relief mechanism. Your participation in our virtual roadshows for neighbouring states has been very positive.  People are eager to travel, and the phenomenal response to the Eco Retreat has proved this”, said Dev.

The participants were also informed about new incentive schemes of the Department for homestays and replacement of wooden tourist boats with safer FRP boats.

“In our efforts to boost niche tourism, we are also progressing fast on operationalising houseboat and cruise operations in Chilika, Bhitarkanika, Satkosia and Hirakud. Our Beachfront Development agenda is progressing with full gusto, and after Puri, we are taking steps to achieve Blue Flag certification for five more beaches in Odisha”, informed Dev, while highlighting the steps taken by the Government. He sought the proactive feedback of industry stakeholders on what more can be done.

“We are part of the same family, and need to continue working together to make Odisha the most favoured tourist destination in the country and the region”, said Dev.

Prof. Md. Sabir Hussein, Nodal Officer of IITTM, in his keynote address, applauded this first-of-its-kind institutional collaboration of Government of Odisha.

“This industry, which is responsible for 330 million jobs and 10.3% of global GDP, has been gravely hit. Hence, this intense focus is apt. Government issued SOPs are going to dictate the recovery of this sector. Amid lockdowns, we must emerge stably by utilising this emergent regulatory structure”, said Prof Hussein, following which the sessions were conducted.

In the workshop, Benjamin Simon detailed the SOPs for travel trade. Gagan Sarangi, President IATO Odisha Chapter highlighted the challenges to tour operators in resuming operations. Dr Adyasa Das, Associate Professor, IITTM presented manpower related practices for Travel Intermediaries.

The workshop concluded with Prof Sabir Hussain informing the participants about the best global practices with reference to consumer responses in Post COVID period.