Post COVID-19, Odisha Govt To Open 40 Ecotourism Destinations

Bhubaneswar: Around 40 ecotourism destinations, including beach resorts, hill stations in tribal belts, forest and nature camps, will be opened in the state after the situation arising out of COVID-19 pandemic improves, said Director, Odisha Tourism, Sachin Ramchandra Jhadav.

Speaking at a webinar on “Investment and Entrepreneurship Opportunities in Tourism in Odisha”, organided by Odisha Corporate Foundation (OCF), a non-profit organisation on Friday, Jhadav said, “The pandemic has badly affected the tourism sector across the globe due to travel restrictions and economic slump. In such a situation, the state government is planning to promote ecotourism on a priority basis.”

Stating that the state has 300 acre of land bank which investors can use for hotels, resorts, conference halls, theme parks and entertainment zones, he said the government has established a single window clearance mechanism to sanction investment proposals.

Chairman of Hotel and Restaurants Association of Odisha (HRAO) J K Mohanty said the state is taking up a slew of projects for promotion of the tourism industry, but it has miles to go so far as hotel industry is concerned. While Kerala and Maharashtra have 93 and 90 star hotels respectively, Odisha has only nine.

“We need to prepare and promote good quality videos of our tourist spots, besides pulling mega investors like Disney World,” Mohanty said, adding that the Swosti Group is going to set up a beach resort in Puri soon.

Comparing the tourism sector in Odisha with that of Madhya Pradesh and Kerala, former member, Central Board of Direct Taxes, Prasanna Dash said Odisha is still lagging behind so far as infrastructure, communication, transportation and other factors responsible to enrich the tourism sector are concerned.

“We need to ensure basic facilities like clean and functional toilets, safe drinking water supply and a clean and healthy ambience in the accommodation facilities for tourists,” Dash said, urging the government to replace the existing boats for tourists in Chilika and Bhitarkanika with new boats having modern facilities.

Former chief secretary of Odisha Bijay Kumar Patnaik said the government, on a priority basis, should work for the all-round development of 6-7 important tourists’ spots and then go for development of others in a phased manner. He proposed that OCF should form a committee for this and come forward to support the government.

Nahar Mohammed of the project management unit of Odisha Tourism shed light on encouraging investment and entrepreneurship for promoting tourism of the state. Former Executive Director of Steel Authority of India (SAIL) Tushar Sahu delivered the welcome address.

Among others, non-resident Odias (NROs) Sukanta Sahu from London and Arun Kumar Praharaj from Baharin also spoke. Investors, NROs, hoteliers, government officials and travel agents attended the webinar.

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