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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 27:

The Odisha government today observed World Tourism Day with much fanfare. However, it hasn’t been able to draw a significant number of tourists to the state as compared to other counterparts.

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While the state government claims to have initiated a slew of measures to augment the tourism potential, the numbers over the past several years paint a gloomy picture of the visitors.

The state has failed to attract tourists to major destinations except the region not far off to the capital city. The state has 342 tourist destinations which possess enormous potential to complement to the revenue. Of the major destinations, nearly 100 are in the Golden Triangle— comprising Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar as its major destinations— which is able to register 95 per cent of the total inflow to the state.

It is alleged that the state government promotes the Golden Triangle circuit than other potential places across the state. Despite this, the tourists hardly visit 10-15 places in Golden Triangle area.

The domestic visitors’ inflow has increased by 9-10 per cent a year. On the contrary, the inflow of foreign tourists has declined over the years. As per statistics, 98 lakh tourists visited the state in 2013 followed by 1.07 crore in 2014, amounting to an increase of 9 per cent annually. The increase in footfall has been restricted to the Golden Triangle area. The number of visitors to other tourist spots, however, has decreased significantly.

The statistics further revealed that 66, 675 visitors from abroad toured various places in Odisha in 2013. The following year, 71, 426 foreign nationals came to Odisha and 66, 971 in 2015. The visit of foreign tourists to the state has fallen by 4455 the particular year.

Interestingly, a meager 23, 000 foreign tourists visited Odisha during Nabakalebara festival last year.

Earlier in May this year, state Tourism and Culture Minister Ashok Chandra Panda had informed the Assembly that the state hardly managed to attract less than one percent of the tourists visiting the country.

Out of the 80, 16, 000 foreign tourists that visited the country in 2015, only 66,971 visited Odisha. The overall share stands at 0.84 percent. While Odisha attracted 0.96 percent of foreign tourists in 2011 and 2013, the share was 0.97 in 2012 and 0.93 in 2014, Panda had said.

The Minister had cited lack of international air connectivity and lack of direct rail connectivity to key tourist hubs of the country as the main reasons that are hampering the tourist inflow to the state.

In the backdrop of this, the state government is mulling to promote tribal circuit, eco circuit, wildlife circuit, rural circuit, and spiritual circuit among other things along with the tourist destinations to attract visitors. Similarly, Gopalpur-Tampara-Chilika and Talasari-Chandipur-Dagara would be included in Swadesh Darshan scheme and Ratnagiri-Udaygiri-Lalitgiri-Langudi would be included in the Buddhist circuit in the state, sources said.

As many as 40 eco tourism spots have been identified where around Rs 100 crore will be pumped in over five years for its overall development.