Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Sep 24:
After over three years of imposing restrictions on the visit of foreign tourists to certain pockets in the state, the Odisha government is contemplating to relax the restrictions and allow their visit to the tribal-dominated and Maoist-infested regions considering the dwindling footfall in the state, since the abduction of two foreign nationals.
According to sources in the Tourism department, the foreign visitors are attracted to the state for trekking, adventure sports and tribal tourism among others.
However, the imposition of restrictions post abduction of two Italian tourists in Kandhamal district over three years ago has adversely impacted the inbound foreign tourists’ footfall. In view of this, the state government is mulling to relax these restraints on visit to tribal-dominated and Maoist-affected areas.
A committee headed by Home secretary would give its recommendations to the state government following which a notification would be issued in this regard, sources said.
Tourists from Canada, France, the United States of America, Malaysia, Spain, Australia, Italy, and other European countries are drawn towards the tribal-dominated districts like Koraput, Malkangiri, Rayagada and Kandhamal. They used to visit these districts and study the lifestyle of these native tribes.
As per data available, 1834 foreign tourists visited tribal regions of Odisha in 2012, 1706 in 2013 and 1184 in 2014. This showed a declining trend and is a major cause of concern for the tourism industry.
While 5498 tourists from France visited Odisha in 2012, it dropped to 4825 in 2014. Similarly, 3718 tourists from Italy visited the state in 2012, 1256 from Spain visited the state during that time and it dropped to 905 in 2014.
“The Maoist-related violence has come down in the state in the recent times. Hence, we are contemplating to relax the restrictions of movement of foreign tourists in the Maoist-hit areas in the state,” Touris Director Anil Samal said.
It may be mentioned that Red rebels had kidnapped two Italian tourists –Paolo Bosusco and Claudio Colangelo– in March 2012 during a trekking expedition in Kandhamal-Ganjam border prompting the state government to impose restrictions on movement of tourists, especially foreign tourists, in areas inhabited by tribals.