Bhubaneswar: Odisha Tourism was conferred the Silver Award for “Best Future Forward State” at the sixth edition of the Indian Responsible Tourism Awards, organised for the first time outside the National Capital Territory of Delhi, at Eco Retreat Odisha in Konark.
Kerala won the Gold category award in the same segment.
The awards recognise champions of ethical travel as a regional partner of the reputed World Travel Market’s (WTM) Responsible Tourism Awards held in London
“Odisha’s contribution to promoting responsible tourism is well established. Our ecotourism model of community-managed nature camps have since 2016 empowered rural populations with alternate and sustainable livelihood. From developing Odisha’s tourism and hospitality infrastructure for greater resilience against disruptive events such as cyclones and pandemics, to ensuring responsible design of new tourism products – we have made sustainability our mantra”, said Tourism Minister Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi.
Active sessions were held during the summit and successful case studies discussed involving sustainable solutions to manage water, waste and carbon footprints through community oriented actions with community-led sustainable niche tourism project ‘Ecotour Odisha’ being highly appreciated by the delegates present.
“Over and above Responsible Tourism, it is our responsibility for 2021 to revive tourism. Apart from flagship offerings in niche segments, we are working towards making tourism community-led through our flagship project ‘Ecotour Odisha’, an award winning template not only for safe, inclusive and sustainable tourism but also for community and livelihood development through specialised skilling of community members.
As part of our tourism revival strategy, work is underway to double the capacity of these nature camps from just over 300 room keys to over 600 in the near future while the recently commissioned Biju Expressway has greatly helped us take the benefits of tourism and hospitality to the hinterlands”, deliberated Tourism secretary Vishal Dev.
Persons of eminence who graced the occasion such as Aman Nath, Founder & Chairman of Neemrana Hotels spoke on the need to unchain ourselves from boxed-in ideas involving tourism with much emphasis on choosing indigenous over imported for sustainable development in Tourism Industry.
Dr. Harish Hande, Co-Founder, SELCO and Ramon Magasaysay Awardee spoke on how Responsible Tourism can help dissipate the myths of romanticism and social disparity for India to become a sustainability superpower.
Bharati Chaturvedi, Founder & Director, Chintan Environmental Research & Action Group through a virtual address drew attention towards effective waste disposal and its management at tourism destinations to ensure preservation of natural ecosystems that help draw tourists and drive economy.
Fiona Jeffery, OBE, Founder & Chairperson, Just a Drop headlined the sessions Water by urging the wider travel community to focus on strategies not only involving economic recovery but also the socio-cultural aspects for the sector rebuilding process.
Anita Mendiratta, Special Advisor to Secretary General of the UNWTO and a strategic resource to the World Bank, WTTC, IATA and ATAG addressed the summit virtually on mapping the post-pandemic tourism landscape across continents both for Indian and global audiences.
Case studies on successful models encompassing reduction of carbon footprints by Jaideep Bansal, COO, Global Himalayan Expedition, effective management of waste by Chirag Mahajan, Senior Manager Communications, Waste Warriors and mitigating water issues by Manisha Shah, Advocacy Manager, Arghyam were presented during the summit.
Director Tourism Sachin Jadhav delivered a crisp presentation highlighting the diverse aspects of Odisha, which resonate with its brand identity as India’s best kept secret.
The jury for the 6th IRTA comprised Dr. Harold Goodwin (Professor Emeritus at Manchester Metropolitan University, C.B. Ramkumar (India Country Representative at Global Sustainable Tourism Council), Meenakshi Sharma (DG, Ministry of Tourism, Govt. of India), Vineeta Dixit (Head, Public Policy at AiRBnB India), Raj Basu (Co-Founder, Help Tourism and The Association for Conservation & Tourism in the East Himalaya and Indo-Burma Region) and Marcus Cotton (Owner & MD, Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge, Nepal)
By hosting these awards at Odisha’s flagship Eco Retreat, Government of Odisha has successfully strengthened the state’s emerging brand perception as a champion of responsible tourism, with the state’s community-managed ecotourism model being at the forefront owing to preserving and promoting both environmental consciousness and social prosperity for rural communities, most of them being women.
Eco Retreat Odisha offers an apt venue, since it seamlessly combines luxury with sustainability and ticks the right boxes inter alia in terms of environmental conservation and technological leverage and presents a transformative picture for each location’s tourism-oriented future multiplied by tourism and thus livelihoods.