Culture touch to boost tourism

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  • Published 20.02.12

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 19: Blending culture with tourism has paid great dividends for the state.

In the past few years, Odisha has seen a rise in the number of foreigners visiting the state.

Odisha tourism sources said, while usually the region registers a footfall of around 50,000 foreign travellers a year, by November 2011 the number was 25 per cent higher than the annual average. The sources predict that the number is likely to cross the 1-lakh mark by the end of this March.

M.R. Patnaik, general manager Odisha Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC), said: “A series of initiatives taken by the tourism department to promote culture along with the destination has worked wonders. The state was well known in tourism circuits for its major festivals. Now, promotional ideas, which include highlighting events such as Chandrabhaga International Sand Art Festival, jugalbandi of sand art and 3D chalk painting and dance forms, have increased the tourism potential manifold.”

The state tourism department has even tied up with Discovery Channel to promote Odisha’s cultural heritage, architecture and natural beauty.

Interestingly, the state has added another distinct feather in its cap by getting the rare honour of the “best emerging destination” in the world. A leading international travel and tourism publication has given this honour to Odisha. Kerala got the honour of being the “best destination”.

“We are happy to get the recognition as we were judged on par at the national level with Kerala. At the international level, Thailand was the best destination. The international best emerging destination honour has gone to Turkey,” said Patnaik.

OTDC has taken up projects to promote tourism circuits, such as Lalitgiri and Ratnagiri to provide better infrastructure to the tourists. It has also taken up measures to upgrade its own property and facilities, as apart from tourists from other states and countries budget tourists from within the state are also increasing fast.

Gyanaranjan Nayak, a faculty member at a city-based engineering college, said: “We always talk about tourists coming from outside but more emphasis should be laid on tourists within the state. With the economy changing very fast, most of the Odia households are travelling outside, but the state government should have strategic plans to tap them.”

Tourism professional Srikant Mishra said: “The marketing of the tourism potential has seen a good growth over a period of time, but the attitude of the people involved with managing tourists must change. More stress should be laid on the cultural side of Odishan villages, especially those pockets famous for handicrafts, handloom and stone carving.

“Although we have promoted some villages along the coastal area, many artisan pockets in remote districts should now be included in the promotion list.”

“Starting from the dense forests of Similipal Tiger Reserve in the north to the Deomali Hills in south, the Satkosia Gorge in central region to Hari-Shankar and Nrusimhanath in the west, Odisha has a treasure of quality destinations. The process has just started to attract more tourists and the response has been good so far,” said Debasish Mohapatra of K7 Travels.