SUSTAINABLE TOURISM CAN PROPEL ODISHA’S GROWTH
The World Tourism Day is celebrated on September 27. Its purpose is to foster awareness among the international community on importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. The event seeks to address the global challenges outlined in the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and highlights the tourism sector’s contribution in reaching these goals.
In this spirit, the World Tourism Day 2017 presents a unique opportunity to raise awareness on the contribution of sustainable tourism to development among public and private sector decision-makers and the international community, while mobilizing all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change.
Odisha is endowed with natural attractions such as beaches, lakes, and forests, as well as a rich cultural heritage inclusive of monuments etc. The innumerable temples of Odisha scattered throughout the length and breadth of the State, ranging from the miniature on the Mahendragiri to the gigantic Jagannath, Lingaraj and Sun Temple of the Golden Triangle, appeal to both pilgrims and cultural tourists. There are 79 heritage sites in Odisha protected by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Bhubaneswar alone accounts for 22 out of these heritage sites.
Odisha has tremendous potential in tourism sector. Puri, the shrine of Lord Jagannath, one of the oldest pilgrimage centers, famous for the Car festival, attracts lakhs of pilgrims round the year. The world famous Sun Temple, a UNESCO heritage sites at Konark, the temple city of Bhubaneswar are widely popular as the golden triangle which draws both domestic and international tourists. Odisha has a long tradition of Buddhism starting from 1st century BC, containing the Buddhist relics, excavated Buddhist Stupas, monasteries and Viharas discovered at Lalitagiri and Ratnagiri. The Ashokan rock inscriptions of the 3rd Century BC at Dhauli where the historic war of Kalinga was fought is the testimony to the existence of strong Buddhist tradition in Odisha. In addition, as many as 200 Buddhist heritage sites have also been identified in different parts of the State.
Odisha is also known as a Jain pilgrimage destination and there are ruins at the hill tops of Khandagiri and Udayagiri caves in Bhubaneswar. These are famous all over the world. Odisha has an extensive coastline measuring 480 km, bestowed with rich diversity. The bountiful coastal area encompasses the unique Chilika lagoon, Bhitarkanika one of the richest and diverse mangrove ecosystems endowed with largest rookery of Olive Ridley and largest repository of estuarine crocodile. Besides, the grand scenic beauty of nature, historic monuments, exotic sea beaches, forest, wildlife, waterfalls, beautiful handicrafts, vast water bodies make the State as the supreme tourism destination of the world.
The State has made great strides in various sectors of its economy in tune with the progressive globalization and the changing demands of the tourists to make tourism a sustainable industry in the State. Tourism in Odisha is one of the main contributors to the economy of Odisha (13 per cent of GDP of Odisha). The tourist arrival to the State has increased manifold in last decades. In last six years the tourist arrival to the State has shown an increasing trend which is a result of aggressive campaign undertaken by the State Tourism Department. This year 39,352 number of foreign tourists visited the State between January and June, an increase by 2,415 compared to the arrival of 36,937 overseas visitors during the corresponding period in 2016.
In Odisha, tourism is an important service sector activity. Tourism is being a labour-intensive activity, it has the capacity to generate employment on a large scale through a mix of activities of hotels, transport, shopping, food, entertainment etc. Thus, this sector has the potential of generating income, reducing poverty, and increasing the living standard of the poor masses. In fact, tourism in Odisha can be viewed as an engine for sustainable growth of the State.
India was ranked 40th among the 136 economies across the world in 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) released by the World Economic Forum (WEF). In this edition of index, India has jumped 12 places from earlier 52nd position in 2015. As per the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India (GoI) Report, the number of foreign tourist arrival in India during 2015 is 8 million and that of domestic tourist visits to all States / UTs is 1432 million.
The Government has a crucial role to play in the development and management of tourism and in making it more sustainable. Accordingly, the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India has given a major thrust in this direction and is promoting tourism as a means of economic growth and social integration for the country. The Approach Paper to the 12th Five Year Plan, prepared by the Planning Commission, highlights the need to adopt a ‘pro-poor tourism’ approach aimed at increasing the net benefits to the poor from tourism and ensure that tourism growth contributes to poverty reduction.
Tourism activities in Odisha should be properly managed to minimize environmental impact and sustainability principles should be applied to all types of tourism activities and all segments of the tourism industry. Besides, the tourist destinations should be equipped with basic amenities, including toilets, clean drinking water, rest-houses, restaurants, medical facilities and public transport facilities for sustainable development in Odisha.