Tourism sector in Odisha is expected to receive the much needed boost with the state government announcing hosting of the annual flagship camping event ‘Eco Retreat’, at seven locations from December 1, said sources.
The fifth edition of ‘Eco Retreat’ will be organised at Konark, Putsil, Sonapur, Daringbadi, Bhitarkanika, Satkosia and Hirakud. Unparalleled glamping experience with luxury, adventure, local culture, mouth-watering Odia cuisine, aesthetic folk music and dance will be on the platter.
According to educationalist and Odisha tourism enthusiast Jitu Mishra, “Odisha Tourism in recent years has come up with a range of innovative ideas showcasing Odisha’s hidden tourism potential. Eco Retreat at several destinations is one such innovative ideas that is gradually changing the perception of tourists about Odisha from beyond the borders. Odisha Walks in the Capital city of Bhubaneswar is yet another such innovative idea that even found place in Time magazine.”
Mishra also suggested that both the government, and travel enthusiasts & professionals should work in collaboration to bring hidden gems to limelight and create homestays or other modes of accommodation for travelers.
They can also create more local resource persons who can provide more authentic curated experience to travelers, he added. Srinivas Subudhi, working president of Hotel & Restaurant Association of Odisha (HRAO), said “Attracting more and more foreign tourists is the need of the hour. Although the launch of direct flights connecting Bhubaneswar with Dubai, Bangkok and Singapore will help in attracting more tourists from abroad, infrastructure development like more number of good hotels in the state is highly required. Also, we need good skilled workforce and a good brand ambassador who has the charisma to attract people towards the state like Amitabh does for Gujarat. Further, hospitality sector needs as much importance as the MSME sector does and this will help in economic development.”
As per statistics compiled by the Tourism department, there has been an 875 per cent growth in inflow of foreign and 110 per cent growth in domestic tourists to Odisha in 2022 as compared to 2021. Footfall of domestic tourists increased to 78,67,909 in 2022 from 37,42,221 in 2021. While only 2,269 overseas tourists had visited the state in 2021, their arrival grew to 22,121 in 2022. This put together the total number of tourists visiting the state in 2022 at 78,90,030 as against 37,44,490 in 2021, clocking a growth of 110 per cent.
As per statistics, West Bengal, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh were the top three states from where 11,01,508, 2,06,140 and 1,96,700 tourists visited the state in 2022. The top three countries from where Odisha gets the maximum number of international tourists are: USA (3,446 tourists), Japan (2,378 tourists) and Germany (1,476 tourists).
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The Tourism department attributed the reasons for the growth to multiple factors. Tourism director Sachin Ramchandra Jadhav said that the state government has prepared a robust roadmap to revive the tourism industry post-Covid. “People wanted to travel after remaining indoors owing to Covid-induced restrictions. There were restrictions on flight movements. The Odisha government made a vibrant marketing and branding initiative to woo the tourists. We launched ‘Odisha by road’ campaign to explore the state by road,” Jadhav said.
With recent launch of direct flights connecting Bhubaneswar to Dubai, Bangkok and Singapore under the ‘Viability Gap Funding’ scheme, the Odisha government is hopeful of doubling its foreign tourist footfall by 2025 as compared to the pre-pandemic levels, Jadhav said. “The target is to double the foreign tourist arrivals by 2025 to 2.5 lakh from the pre-Covid peak of 1.2 lakh witnessed in 2019,” he added. OTDC chairman Lenin Mohanty said the Eco Retreat event has become the face of Odisha Tourism that promotes sustainable tourism in the state.