SAMBALPUR: International tourist footfall is declining in Sambalpur district, which is home to seven tourist destinations. Last year, only 213 foreign visitors came to the district.
The district has Hirakud dam, Ushakothi wildlife sanctuary, the architectural marvel of Leaning Temple of Lord Shiva at Huma, Ghanteswari temple at Chiplima, waterfall at Gudguda and is the birth place of saint poet Kandhara. These hotspots have recorded rise in the footfall of domestic tourists, but according to the data compiled by Tourism Department, there has been a constant fall in visit of foreign tourists over the last three years.
While 374 foreign tourists visited Sambalpur in 2013, their number declined to 316 in 2014 and further to 213 in 2015. Similarly, 130 tourists from abroad visited Hirakud in 2013 which was 93 in 2014 and dropped to 76 in 2015. Despite growing hype on wildlife tourism, no foreign tourist visited Ushakotihi in the last three years.
The Leaning Temple of Huma attracted 68 foreign tourists in 2013, but it declined to 67 in 2014 and further to 56 in 2015. Similarly, 86 foreign tourists visited Chiplima in 2013. However, the number decreased to 44 in 2014 and 32 in 2015. Likewise, the other two tourist destinations Gudguda and Kandhara also failed to attract foreign tourists.
However, there has been a constant increase in the footfall of domestic tourists at all the seven tourist destinations.
Owner of Nalin Travels, Rabindra Panda, said all the tourist destinations have potential to attract foreign tourists but the department has failed to sell them. The department’s focus has always been limited to Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar. “Travel and tour operators are doing their bit but it is the department that should be promoting these destinations abroad,” he added. A proper comprehensive package needs to be worked out with freebies to draw foreigners to Sambalpur, he added.
District Tourist Officer, Rabindra Kumar Dalei, however, said foreign tourists are more interested in tribal tourism as they undertake anthropological studies. Normally, they visit places like Koraput and drop in at Sambalpur on their way back. Since there have been restrictions on visit of foreigners due to Maoist problem, it is reflecting on the number of foreign tourists visiting the State on a whole, he said.