Orissa Travel Guide

Orissa state with diverse offerings Orissa Travel Guide:

Orissa, a state known for its temples and beaches is looking forward to enhancing its major tourist attractions, as well as developing new areas to attract tourists by the dozen. With the 24th Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) convention coming up in the state, from August 7 to 10, 2009, the state is all set to sell itself as a major tourist destination, explores Seema Singh. Enjoy an Indian Holiday full of monuments, history, culture, festivity and color. New updates on India travel, Indian Tourism 

The Golden Triangle of Orissa , which includes Bhubaneshwar, Puri and Konark, is a popular tourist destination recording high numbers of tourist arrivals every year. Puri, known for its beaches and temples, is the abode of Lord Jagannath and venue for a number of pilgrims to take the traditional purification dip. Bhubaneshwar, famous for its ancient temples and monuments, is the most preferred base for tourists. Konark, known for its Sun Temple, entices visitors to experience the eroticism of the sculpture.

In addition to its popular tourist spots, Orissa as a state received 46,95,647 domestic tourists for the year 2005-2006 while the number of foreign tourists account for 47,31,378. The per cent change over the previous year was recorded at 8.6 per cent. In the year 2006-2007, the number of domestic tourists that arrived in the state was 53, 77, 123 and the foreign tourist arrival was 54,16,530.

The Chandrabhaga Beach in Konark and the Chilika Lake, Asia ‘s largest brackish water lake also attract hordes of tourists. “Chilika Lake attracts a lot of domestic tourists, while the Hindu temples in the Golden Triangle built in Kalinga style of architecture attracts large number of international visitors,” said Zahir Khan, Proprietor.

The per cent change recorded was 14.4 per cent. While in the year 2007-2009(till December 2007), the domestic tourist arrival in the state was 46,18,490, and the foreign tourist arrival was 46,46,058, amounting to 14 per cent change in tourist arrival as compared to the previous year. All these statistics spell out growth for the tourism industry in terms of cash inflow. As per records, the amount of money spent by the domestic tourists in the year 2006-2007 amounted to Rs 2605.54 crore, while that spent by international tourists was Rs 96.63 crore.

Segmentation 
There’s a lot more to Orissa than its temples and beaches. Ecotourism, Tribal Tourism etc. are other facets of Orissa that are worth noticing and the state is set to cash in on these segments.

Ecotourism: Orissa, having a wide range of flora, fauna, rare and endangered species, provides a b base for promotion of Ecotourism in the state. The state government along with the Orissa Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) plans to set up eco-camps in the state. “Looking at the success of eco-camps operational at Ramachandi, we have decided to set up more such camps on the 2.5 acre land at Tampara (near Gopalpur) followed by Chilika,” informed Alok Mishra, Assistant Manager, OTDC. In order to take up Ecotourism in a big way, the managers of the Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary, have planned to involve the residents of fringe villages, thereby reducing their dependency on forests. “The state Tourism Department and the Forest Department along with the private sector and the local community are working on a Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) format to provide Bed and Breakfast facilities for tourists,” said Parag Gupta, Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Department of Tourism, Orissa. Chilika Lake , an important Ecotourism site, helps create awareness among visitors for conserving natural resources. Bhitar Kanika, famous for its second largest Mangrove ecosystem in India also serves as a major tourist attraction.

Beach Tourism : Beaches in Orissa are gaining popularity among tourists, since they are not over crowded and provide a perfect retreat from the noise and pollution in the state. The tourists visiting the beach can also interact with the local fishermen who take them for boat rides and tell them more about the place,” added Gupta. The state has a number of hotels and guest houses close to these beaches, making the stay of the tourists convenient. The Government of Orissa is decorating beaches with adequate lights and other enhancements. They are also planning to come up with more hotels along the beaches. The most popular among the beaches are Gopalpur, Puri and Chandipur. “While surfing and sailing can be enjoyed at the Gopalpur Beach , the tourists can learn more about the local craft, cuisine and culture of Orissa during the Puri Beach Festival, held in November.

Religious Tourism : The famous Sun Temple in Konark and Jagannath Temple in Puri are centres for a large number of pilgrims visiting the state throughout the year. “The magnificent Lingaraj and exquisitely carved Mukteswar temples, the Jain caves, the Shakti peeths and the Buddhist monuments attract hoards of pilgrims every year,” said Gupta. Bhubaneshwar, itself has around hundred temples. Rath Yatra, a procession of Lord Jagannath and his siblings from Jagannath Temple to Gundicha Mandir, held in the month of July, is another religious attraction of the state. “Apart form The Golden Triangle, we also promote the Buddhist destinations like Ratnagiri, Udayagiri and Lalitagiri, which is called the Buddhist Triangle,” added Khan.

Tribal Tourism : Out of the 437 tribes residing in India , Orissa houses 62 tribes in its Southern region. The state government is working towards promoting tribal dance, music and culture to its tourists. “Tribal Tourism attracts a large number of international tourists who are keen on learning more about the tribal way of living,” said Bijan Kumar Muduli, Manager, Sand Pebbles Tour and Travel.

Trekking routes have been developed in the tribal villages of Kalahandi and Koraput to attract more tourists to these tribal villages. “Tribal Tourism is gaining momentum. Keeping in mind, the safety and security of the tourists going in the tribal areas, we provide good and experienced car drivers to tourists,” said Khan.

Talking about the measures taken to promote Tribal Tourism in the state, Gupta said, “The tribes residing in the villages of the state are very sensitive, we have to take care of their privacy and way of living while exploring their culture, art and craft.”

Wildlife Tourism : The state has a number of national parks, sanctuaries and forests, which house a plethora of flora and fauna and also the Royal Bengal Tiger. A large number of tourists visit Bhitar Kanika, Chandaka, Chilika and Simlipal etc. for Wildlife Tourism. The months from November to mid- February witness the arrival of migratory birds. Nalabana and its neighbourhood are best spots for bird-watching. Bhitar Kanika wildlife sanctuary houses the largest population of crocodile and White Tigers.

Infrastructure 
The state of Orissa has a healthy hospitality industry with star category hotels to suit the budget and needs of every tourist. “Orissa has a number of good hotels with affordable room prices and food service to cater to the needs of all travellers. In order to attract greater number of tourists we offer a lot of facilities within the existing low room tariff,” said Manoj Chand, Manager (Business Development), Hotel Grand Central.

Apart from the existing hotels, in the year 2006-2007 the state government approved six new hotel projects, namely Hotel Blue View, Balasore; Hotel Kamas Inn, Berhampur; Brahmadev Ecotourism Complex, near Baliharchandi; Hotel Ashray, Rourkela and Hotel Durga Plaza, Jaleswar. The international luxury hotel chain, Aman Resort has also shown interest to set up a seven-star resort in Orissa, close to Puri and Konark. The project is expected to be complete by October 2010. “A number of hotel groups like ITC Park , Taj, Meridien, DLF etc have shown interest in setting up their hotels in Orissa. These hotels may start operations in a couple of years,” said Gupta.

Swosti Vacation Club, a unit of the Swosti Group, is also planning to start two resorts, one in Chilika and the other in Puri. The resort in Puri is awaiting approval from the government, while the one in Chilika is in the planning stages. The OTDC is also planning to set up its hotels in Gopalpur, Rambha, Paradeep and Puri on the PPP format. “We have 22 Panthanivas, which provides luxury transport facilities to places of tourists’ interest, water sports and package tours,” added Mishra.

On the aviation front, too, the state is witnessing major changes. Orissa, which has four domestic airports, at Bhubaneshwar, Rourkela, Jeypore and Jharsuguda is well connected by air to New Delhi , Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Varanasi , Nagpur and Hyderabad . The refurbishment programme of the Biju Patnaik Airport , Bhubaneshwar, started by the state government in August 2007, will be completed by next year. Though there are four domestic airports in the state, Biju Patnaik Airport handles most of the air traffic. Airports Authority of India (AAI), in order to keep up to the industrialisation process, has announced the construction of a new integrated international airport complex at Bhubaneshwar by 2010. The AAI will invest Rs 2.5 billion for the project, thus making Biju Patnaik Airport , one of the major airports in Eastern India .

Marketing strategie s
In order to market itself as a tourist destination, Orissa participated in various travel trade shows like ITB Berlin, Leisure Moscow and WTM at London , in 2006-2007. Apart from this, the state also participated in IITM held in Bangalore , West Bengal Tourism Fair in Kolkata, IATO Convention in Jaipur, Travel Trade Fair in Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad . The OTDC in order to boost tourism in Orissa has adopted ‘Hop on’ and ‘Hop off’ services, which will start operations soon. “This service will provide tailor-made sightseeing options for tourists. We have also introduced customised packages and initiated tie ups with various travel agents, tour operators and marketing intermediaries like Yatra.com, Makemytrip.com etc,” said Mishra.

The state government in order to promote longer stay duration has started water sports and luxury transport. “For the promotion of our state, we have organised campaigns in Raipur and Vizag. We have also participated in convention of many organisations like TTF, TAAI, IATO and PATA,” added Mishra. Various travel agents and tour operators, as well as the state government have come up with their portal, in order to promote online booking.

“To promote the destination, and get international tourists we will participate in International Travel Bureau Asia (ITB Asia), to be held in Singapore from October 22 to 24, 2009. We will also participate in Tourism and Travel Fair (TTF) to be held in Kolkata in this month. Apart from this, we will also participate in the forthcoming PATA Convention,” said Muduli.

The state government is also working towards improving the infrastructure to attract more tourists. “We are planning to build a golf course in Bhubaneshwar and a special tourism area in Shamuka, the bidding for which will start soon. This special tourism area will include setting up, five and four-star hotels, resorts, spa, convention centre, golf course, exhibition complex and eco parks,” informed Gupta.

Challenges 
The biggest challenge that the state faces to promote itself as a destination is Naxalism. “Tourists, coming to Orissa are reluctant to explore interior villages because of the threat posed by Naxalites. Tents cannot be set up in the interiors of these villages, so we set up tents in school buildings or close to police stations,” said Khan.

Another challenge facing the state is lack of advertising and marketing. “Eastern states like Darjeeling , Gangtok and Sikkim are well promoted, fetching them large tourist inflow. Government of Orissa is not doing enough to attract tourists to the state. Places like Puri, which are known as a pilgrimage centre, is also not well promoted. People come to visit the state during the famous Rath Yatra, because it get wide media coverage,” said Avinash Gantayet, Sales Manager, Pushpak Travels.

Talking about the challenges faced by the hospitality industry, Manoj Chand said, “The biggest challenge that the hospitality industry faces today is lack of proper information, projects and government interest.” visit the wildlife sanctuaries of India and enjoy safari tours in India with tour packages for India, from Indian Holiday.