Odisha aims to develop resilient and self-sustainable tourism sector: Naveen

New Delhi: Odisha Tourism organised a webinar ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth – Reflections & Way Forward’, jointly with FICCI, as part of World Tourism Day 2021 celebrations.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik sent a message highlighting the need for a self-sustainable, responsible and community-driven tourism sector.

 “Odisha presents an untapped reservoir of niche tourism experiences. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we witnessed the strength and resilience shown by the stakeholders of the tourism and hospitality industry in creating a safe, secure and an experientially enriching atmosphere for travellers to explore Odisha – India’s Best Kept Secret,” said the Chief Minister.

“The theme of World Tourism Day 2021 is Tourism for Inclusive Growth. As the travel and tourism sector continues its battle against the pandemic, Odisha Tourism is taking rapid strides towards integrated development of the State’s tourism sector that is self-sustainable and supports wider economic recovery. Sustainable and responsible tourism is intrinsic to Odisha,” he added.

 “In our efforts to establish Odisha as a tourism hub of global standards, we are actively working on infrastructure development through integrated master planning of identified priority destinations across the State with scope for community participation and incorporation of sustainable value adding enterprises like handicrafts and promotion of authentic Odia Cuisine,” the Chief Minister said.

Tourism Minister Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi said that Odisha has reworked the strategy and vision for tourism in the post Covid environment while ensuring that safety is the priority.

Highlighting the tremendous potential of tourism in the state, Panigrahi said, “We have unique landscape, vibrant culture and heritage sites in the state of Odisha. As mentioned by our Chief Minister, our government is committed to take care of ecotourism in a community driven model which is also sustainable. The state also received the Silver Award for ‘The Best Future Forward State’ at the 6th India Responsible Tourism Awards. Odisha is a leader in Tourism and Sports. The state also leads in many other sectors such as women empowerment which is emulated by other states.”

Further, the Minister also emphasized on Caravan Tourism, a policy of the Government of India, and mentioned that the State is taking all measures right from the creation of basic infrastructure required for Caravan Tourism to the end product to ensure that this is completed and implemented soon.

Tourism secretary Surendra Kumar said, “This World Tourism Day, all governments are recognising and actively working towards Inclusive Growth including Odisha. The Odisha Government had recognised this even way before the pandemic struck that tourism is a key sector for growth. Some of the key focus areas that Odisha tourism has been working are Heritage tourism and Tribal tourism.”

“The state is also ramping up the award-winning community-led ecotourism models. In the last four five years, Odisha has developed a lot of eco-tourism sites both by the Tourism department as well as the Forest department.  Despite the pandemic, the eco-retreat at Konark had fifty percent occupancy and other sites had forty percent occupancy. The Eco Retreat will be expanded to seven unique eco-tourism destinations this year and the model on which the project is based incorporates best practices in material utilisation, zero liquid and sewerage discharge and holistic waste management,” he added.

“Odisha government has created an investor-friendly climate in the State to rebuild the industry in the next 5 years. Surveys of investible tourism landbanks are being carried out to develop both existing and unexplored tourism destinations. Private sector investments are being facilitated through attractive incentivization schemes,” he noted.

Suman Billa, Director, United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNTWO), Technical Cooperation & Silk Road Development, said, “There is no sector as efficient as the tourism sector in taking up the inclusive growth to its peak. Tourism matters because of its sheer size. The industry accounts for 1.7 trillion dollars in terms of exports alone. One out of every ten jobs are created by the Tourism sector. One of the other important aspects of Tourism is its ability to create jobs for a diverse workforce.”

“Odisha has taken up fundamental and far-reaching initiatives to create ‘Inclusive Tourism’. One of the most important cornerstones is that Odisha has taken up initiatives in creating authentic and traditional experiences for tourists and this is supported by their push to create homestays which is excellent. This not only gives the opportunity to showcase the true experience of Odisha to the tourist but also creates economic avenues for the community,” he added.

“Odisha is also supporting its traditional industry like handicrafts and handlooms through tourism. It is also excellent that Odisha is creating traditional wooden boats that will be manned by the local boatmen thus creating livelihoods for them,” he noted.

JK Mohanty, CMD, Swosti Group; Capt Suresh Sharma, Founder and Director Operations, Green Dot Expeditions; Dr Vithal Venkatesh Kamat, Executive Chairman & Managing Director, Kamat Hotels Group Ltd and Devjyoti Patnaik, Avid Traveller and Biker also shared their perspective on the tourism potential in the state.