BHUBANESWAR: Winters in India generate maximum revenue for the tourism industry with a majority of travel concentrated between December and January. Though the tourism sector in Odisha has witnessed a brisk growth of 12 to 15 percent over the last five years, this winter has been an exception.
Demonetisation and the Central Government’s drive towards a cashless economy has dealt a blow to the tourism industry of the State. In 2014, the footfall of domestic tourists in Odisha was 15 lakh while in 2015, the number reached 17 lakh. While the industry expected at least 20 lakh tourists in the State this December, the number plummeted by 25 per cent to 12.75 lakh.
Travel industry in the State is largely dependent on telephonic reservations or spot bookings which have a collective share of over 85 percent.
Demonetisation and shortage of cash with travellers and potential tourists has hit the industry badly, Chairman, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Odisha (HRAO) JK Mohanty said.
Besides, the Government has set a ceiling of $5000 on exchange per week due to which foreign tourists are facing a lot of difficulties, he added.
Tourists book hotels well in advance from July onwards for the two-month peak window during December and January. However this winter, one can easily get a room at any random hotel or guest house in Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark or Gopalpur and Chandipur which invariably displayed ‘sold out’ status during this period earlier.
‘’Holidays are meant for relaxing and seeing places. Travel is not worthy if there is a mental anxiety over the deficiency of cash when you are away from home,’’ said Abhay Dubey, a Bengaluru-based Software engineer who recently cancelled his trip to Odisha due to demonetisation.
Of late, bookings for destinations like Daringbadi, Gupteswar, Debrigad and Kuldiha have been on the rise. These spots have great tourism potential and survive on cash payment and manual bookings, travel industry expert Benjamin Simon said.
However, currency crunch has had a negative effect on nature tourism in the State. Corporate bookings for these places have also taken a backseat, Simon added.
With the tourism potential of sought-after destinations like Kerala, Rajasthan, Goa, Uttarakhand and northern States on the verge of saturation, Odisha has emerged as one of the choicest locations for Indian tourists. Despite being tagged as the Pearl of the East and Soul of Incredible India, the tourism sector has failed to overcome the shock of demonetisation.
The stakeholders are keeping a close watch on the policy decisions of the Centre and hope that the situation will improve by the end of the first quarter of 2017.