New tourism policy progressive, focus on new segments, says Aarti Ahuja

Aarti Ahuja speaking at the Odisha Tourism Conclave, gave insight in to the new investment policy and elaborated government investment opportunities made available to stakeholders under various schemes. In a detailed presentation, she talked about steadily increasing tourism numbers, as well as some of the upcoming development projects. Edited excerpts from the speech:

Aarti Ahuja  Principal Secretary ,Odisha Tourism
Aarti Ahuja
Principal Secretary
,Odisha Tourism

Steady rise in tourism numbers

Very recently, we have started a direct flight to Kuala Lumpur. In fact, the tourism department has partnered with Air Asia for that, and we have been receiving a very positive response. After the Bhubaneshwar airport was declared an international airport, we saw a jump of about 90% in tourist footfalls, since last year. We have good rail connectivity, the road network in Odisha is one of the best and of course we also have these ports which are fully functional and give us a good amount of traffic. Looking at some hard data, from the economic survey, 9% of our growth in tourist arrivals contributed to The Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP). We have 6% combined annual growth rate of tourist arrivals from 2010-15 and in terms of the intensity of overnight domestic tourism, Odisha is third. Coming to accommodations, we do not have too many 5 star properties but we have other kinds of accommodations.

Odisha’s tourism product is an immersive experience

Talking about the immersive experience that you can have in Odisha, we of course have our natural beauty. We also have a very strong heritage that we are very proud of and a large forest cover of about 34%. These are beautiful and pristine places contributing to wildlife and eco-tourism. We have a lot of ethnic tourism with sixty-two different kinds of tribes, a very strong tradition of art, handicraft and handlooms and of course we have our fairs and festivals.

I also want to talk a little about the policy eco-system. We have a fixed date for single window clearance with five to six proposals getting cleared every month. We have created a land bank and have identified lovely places along the coast that one can avail. To point out a few investment opportunities, there are land bank convention centres already coming up but we are also seeking public private partnerships for that. So, there are different opportunities that are available, one being luxury hotels and we are already in conversation with some 5 star chains who are interested in not only just setting up hotels, but also eco-tourism resorts. Aquariums, amusement parks and water parks, wellness and eco-tourism projects, cruise and houseboats, which are an immense opportunity as we do not have anything on the east coast, are also great areas of opportunity. Beach and water sports are also a segment which is ripe for the picking. Ropeways, adventure and caravan tourism are an area we are looking at and are planning to earmark sites in different places where people can setup caravans. We are getting queries from places like Australia and Maldives who want to setup golf courses over here so, we are looking at land for them. Knowledge and medical tourism, we have so many Ayurveda students passing out every year and it is a rich resource that can be tapped. I must mention that Odisha has set a huge target for skill development and a lot of work is being done under that and this is again a potential that can be tapped and has government funding.

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