BHUBANESWAR, Orissa, India – A state level workshop on Tourism Development of Orissa was organized by the Hotel & Restaurant Association of Orissa (HRAO) on January 25. Attended by the hoteliers, tour operators, airlines, planners, travel writers, and officials of Department of Tourism, Forest, Pollution Control Board, IITTM, Airport Authority of India, and PKDA, the workshop was inaugurated by the Minister of Tourism & Excise Sri Debi Prasad Mishra.

Presenting the abysmal picture of Orissa Tourism today, the chairman of HRAO Sri JK Mohanty gave a comparative statement of the efforts made by other states and Orissa. While several states of India are in the process of completing 70,000 hotel rooms, Orissa is now working on only 158 rooms. In this process, the state is losing huge subsidies given by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India he said. Pointing out the reason for the absence of any new hotel project in the state, Mohanty informed about the non-availability of land and withdrawal of incentives by the government. He urged upon the government to create a land bank, which could be leased out to serious entrepreneurs. According to projections made by Shri Mohanty, Orissa will be requiring 4,000 additional rooms in 3-star category with an investment of Rs.12,000 crore and 1000, rooms in 5-star category with an estimated outlay of Rs.1000 crore.

In order to make Orissa a favored destination, the government must take some fiscal measures in way of tax-concession, exemption of excise and transport duty, and electricity tariff as per the industrial rate, he said. Capital Investment Subsidy at 30 percent or Rs.1crore per new hotel project may form a part of the incentive schemes. State Level Bankers Committee and SC/ST Finance Corporation also may be roped in to extend credit facilities to the hotel industry.

In his address, the former Civil Aviation Secretary Vivek Patnaik urged upon the government to persuade several airlines to have traffic rights over Bhubaneswar, which would help them bring overseas passengers to Orissa even without an International Airport. The government should have some innovative approach and give serious thought over constructing or upgrading the existing airport with the public – private partnership mode. The government must identify and work on several air-strips now in the state to use for connecting places of tourist interest inside the state, said Patnaik.

The Director of the Airport Authority of India, Bhubaneswar informed about the steps taken by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to upgrade Biju Patnaik Airport and the construction of Airports in Jharsuguda and Berhampur.

The workshop suggested several measures for the development of Orissa Tourism. The absence of an effective tourism policy, the absence of a clear policy to release advertisement texts to different publications, the absence of a tourism advisory board and a special task force to monitor the progress and review the works done by Orissa tourism have made Orissa lag behind, observed the speakers in the workshop.

It was suggested that the government must spell out a tourism policy and constitute a tourism advisory board with representatives from the hospitality sector, tour operators, and travel writers. The department should have an article bank, and it was suggested that travel writers should be given due importance and be given a sort of accreditation, facilitation, and hospitality to showcase Orissa. It was further suggested that the hospitality sector must be charged an electricity tariff as per the industrial rate, since it has been declared as an industry and not as per the commercial rate. Efforts must be made to keep their beaches clean, and the development must coordinate with other departments for the promotion of Orissa tourism.

Releasing the importance of tourism as the highest revenue earner for the government, it was suggested that the department should have a principal secretary, a commissioner, and two directors for smooth functioning of the department.

While agreeing to most of the suggestions, the Minister promised to take up the matters. Informing about the government under the dynamic leadership of Naveen Patnaik, Sri Mishra said that in the last year Orissa has registered a growth of four percent over the previous year in pilgrim tourism. The government is taking serious steps to make Orissa the most favoued destination, he said.

In his deliberation, the Chairman of OTDC, Sri Debashish Samantaray spoke about OTDC efforts in showcasing Orissa. A vote of thanks was proposed by Mr. A. Talukdar.