BHUBANESWAR: Accommodation, both luxury and budget, may be an issue for tourists visiting Puri during the Nabakalebara festival of the Trinity.
While hotels do not have adequate rooms to accommodate a rush of over three million, the ‘Bed and Breakfast’ (home stay) scheme of Tourism Department has not found many takers. Besides 480 hotels, the Pilgrim Town has over 100 holiday homes, 80 ashrams, 200 lodgings and 12 dharmasalas. Rooms in almost all the hotels and holiday homes have been booked prior to the grand fete.
As the existing facilities are grossly inadequate to meet the accommodation requirement, the Tourism Department had decided to offer home stay facilities in Puri under ‘Bed and Breakfast’ scheme that was launched in 2006. Under the scheme, house owners can provide their houses to tourists for short stay along with food at affordable prices.
Sources said though tenders were floated a month back inviting house owners in and around Puri, the results have not been encouraging. “Less than 10 house owners have expressed interest in the project,” said an official of the department, adding that the department will inspect location of houses before granting licence to the owners taking into account security and other aspects. Bookings would be done through OTDC so that tourists are not deceived.
Besides, there are no plans for new hotel projects in and around Puri before the Nabakalebara. Although the State Government had urged hotel owners to increase the number of beds, president of Hotel Owners Association of Puri, RK Das Mohapatra said there are no such plans. He said while hotels, holiday homes and lodgings can accommodate 20,000 tourists at one time, the dharmasalas and ashrams can house 4,000 more.
Stakeholders in the tourism sector said though there have been a large number of inquiries from States like West Bengal, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, New Delhi, Maharashtra and North East for visiting Puri during Nabakalebara and Rath Yatra, there are not enough rooms to accommodate them. Chairman (Odisha chapter), Indian Association of Tour Operators, Benjamin Simon said almost all the rooms in hotels have already been booked and no addition of beds has been done yet. “As far as international tourists are concerned, there is still a belief among them that Odisha is not safe,” he said, adding that only a handful of international travellers from European countries and Japan have booked for visits to Puri during Nabakalebara.
Tourism Minister Ashok Panda, though, is hopeful of meeting the demand with the existing facilities and temporary accommodation units. Panda said an amount of `three crore has been placed with the Puri Collector for setting up temporary low-cost accommodation units for one lakh people in Puri. Besides, two ‘Jajabara’ (wayside amenities) will come up at Pipili and Patanaika near Sakhigopal before the grand fete.