Private push to eco-tourism

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By BIBHUTI BARIK
  • Published 16.06.14
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Bhubaneswar, June 15: If you are serious about exploring the eco-tourism sites across the state, there are opportunities galore as the state government is all set to free them from the control of the forest department and provide access to private operators to manage them to develop the state’s tourism potentials further.

Wildlife sanctuaries in Satkosia, Kuldiha, Debrigarh, Bhitarkanika and Chilika are ideal eco-tourism destinations in the state.

Though a section of wildlife enthusiasts are not happy as they feel that the inclusion of private operators in managing eco-tourism destinations might jeopardise conservation efforts, tour operators and members of various hotel and restaurant owners’ associations are very happy at the development as they have been urging the state government to allow more and more private operators to manage such destinations.

Last month, chairman of the Hotel and Restaurant Owners’ Association J.K. Mohanty requested tourism minister Ashok Chandra Panda that the forest department should handover all its guest accommodation to the Odisha Forest Development Corporation which may collaborate with tourism department. He also assured that as responsible tour operators, the travel managers would make it sure that wildlife conservation is not affected through this effort.

Tourism director Manoranjan Patnaik said: “Private operators may take up the destination management charge from the OFDC, but they should also come forward to develop more such sites in future. In fact, as per the new tourism policy, while 68 applications were received only two are on eco-tourism.”

With an increased focus being given on eco-tourism-related development across the globe and the Union government providing assistance, the public-private partnership for developing more such eco-tourism sites can give more choices for the visitors to explore nature further.

Tour operator Debashish Mohapatra suggested that not only development of eco-tourism sites, but providing basic infrastructure for its sustenance was also very important. “The eco-tourism complex near Godibari at Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary had all the elements to attract tourists, but transport link to the site from the city was never planned properly,” he added.

Tourist Parthasarathi Das from Baripada said: “There are hundreds of interesting eco-tourism destinations in the state besides those already developed by the forest department. The private operators should also take up those sites and not only depend on the government agencies to get ready-made ones to manage.”

Travel writer from Chhatrapur in Ganjam Sujata Patnaik said: “The government should first prepare a database to develop eco-tourism sites in the state. After discussing with the tour operators and other agencies involved in tourism business, a public-partnership model can also be formulated.” However, she suggested that benefit to local community must not be forgotten by the agencies concerned and the local communities must be engaged as done in Mangalajodi eco-tourism project which had already received international recognition.