Bhubaneswar: The eco-tourism drive taken up by the Odisha government has made a significant progress in the last three years in terms of the footfall of foreign tourists.
This was revealed at the Eco-Tourism Board meeting presided over by Chief Secretary, Asit Tripathy at Lok Seva Bhawan here on Wednesday.
In the last years, there has been a steady rise in the numbers of international tourists from countries like US, France, UK, America, Germany, Singapore, Netherlands, Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, South Korea and Switzerland. The number of night stay visitors from these countries has increased from 9859 in 2016-17 to 13,785 in 2017-18 and further to 20,127 in 2018-19.
Reviewing the progress, the chief secretary directed the department to develop eco-tourism along professional lines through the creation of market demand and private sector linkages. The departments of Tourism and Forest & Environment were directed to work out a home-stay policy near the identified sanctuaries and eco-destinations like Similipal, Bhitarkanika, Chilika, Daringibadi and Satakosia and identify the places as per their feasibility and involve well-known international writers, authors and travel experts in eco-tourism drive of the state.
It was decided to work out tour packages of three to five days including heritage and nature sites, further develop the eco-sites with facilities like birding, sports, trekking, wildlife watch, cycling, boating, jungle safari, photography, canopy walk and farm visits under the joint collaboration of the government and private players.
The chief secretary asked the department to popularise ‘Odisha destinations’ among different travel and tour operators in the world market and conduct guide training programmes involving educated youth. He also directed the Indian Institute of Hotel Management to train members of the eco-development committees in house keeping and hospitality.
The meeting revealed that 40 eco-tourist destinations had been developed and made open to visitors in different parts of the state while around 298 tents and rooms with a capacity to accommodate around 800 persons per day had been put into the service of the visitors. This apart, online booking system has facilitated international booking for visit to the spots.