Tourist arrival to Odisha has shown an upward trend as a result of the state tourism’s aggressive campaign. Arti Ahuja, Principal Secretary, Odisha Tourism, talks about the efforts taken to place the state prominently on the domestic and global tourism map.
The State of Odisha secured 3rd rank in terms of intensity of overnight domestic tourism, with an average of 541 trips per 100 households, as compared to the all India average of 418 trips per 100 households. Therefore, the tourism intensity in Odisha is 29 percent higher than the national-level tourism intensity (National Council of Applied Economic Research, 2015). The state also recorded 12,135,059 tourist visits (domestic and international) in 2015-16 as compared to 11,123,566 tourists in 2014-15. With the AirAsia X direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bhubaneswar, the state is expecting a surge in tourist numbers in the off-season.
Arti Ahuja says, “We are getting a very good response to this flight. This is not our season, still we are recording increased footfalls. We have tourists coming from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, via Kuala Lumpur. We are sure that with more roadshows that we are planning in the coming months, we are going to have greater number of footfalls in the winter months.”
The state is taking several initiatives to revive dormant tourism products. “We are reviving the ‘Jagganath sadak’ that was used by pilgrims from Nagpur to Puri, reviving it as a cycle route, in collaboration with the Government of Maharashtra. “Further, we have found a Buddhist relic which is going to be placed shortly in a museum in the Diamond Triangle. Also, in December, we plan to organise a huge event, where we will have live chanting by monks. Hopefully, by that time, the ASI museum will also get operational. We are also planning to plant the Bodhi tree saplings and have a conclave of different countries who can set up their monasteries there. We aim to primarily promote Buddhist Tourism in December. With Air Asia establishing direct connectivity with South East Asian countries, Buddhist tourism has come to the forefront, and we really want to cash-in on that now. “We have recently formed a Task Force to ensure that we carry forth what we decide,” Ahuja adds.
Commenting on the upcoming IATO conference in September, she says, “We have been having regular interactions with our tour operators, travel agent associations, hotel associations, not just for IATO, but otherwise as well. We have also had a number of B2B interactions with numerous foreign tour operators, and invited them for familiarisation tours, especially with the opening of the KL flight. Many tour operators have come from Malaysia and entered into tie-ups with local operators. We have also had leading tour operators from Europe, whom we had met in ITB, coming in. We are also going to have the Odisha Travel Bazar in October, where we are going to have large B2B meetings with tour operators and travel agents. Then IATO is there and we are working closely with them for the publicity of the state.”