BHUBANESWAR: Even as the Nabakalebara Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra and Lord Balabhadra drew international travellers from European and South Asian countries this year, private stakeholders in the tourism sector feel it was a case of lost opportunity. They said much more could have been done to market the grand event globally and attract more foreign tourists to Puri.
While 258 foreigners visited Puri on the Rath Yatra day on July 18, according to reports of the Tourism Department, over 300 more are expected on Bahuda and Suna Besha of the Trinity going by the occupancy reports and bookings of 480 luxury, mid-level and budget hotels. These visitors are from Russia, France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom, the US, Japan, Thailand, and Sri Lanka, among others. The maximum of them, around 60, are from Japan.
Besides the international travellers, around 700 foreign devotees from the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) visited Puri to take part in Rath Yatra. “Their number will be more as apart from those who stayed in the hotels and lodgings, there was a floating population of international travellers who preferred to watch the Rath Yatra and return to Bhubaneswar the same day,” said Bijay Kumar Jena, Tourist Officer, Puri.
However, Benjamin Simon, managing director of city-based tour management agency Travel Link, said the number of foreign tourists was far too less compared to the crowd of 15 lakh to 17 lakh of domestic tourists and pilgrims that turned up for Rath Yatra. “The Kumbh Mela gets more foreign tourists than the Nabakalebara Rath Yatra. As in Kumbh Mela where luxury tents are set up for foreign travellers who wish to experience the local culture, the idea should have been implemented in Puri during the festival,” he said, adding that the Tourism Department could have collaborated with international tour operators and airlines to attract foreign tourists to an important event like this.
Secretary, Tourism and Culture Arvind Padhee informed that road shows and tourism promotion activities related to the Nabakalebara were undertaken in several countries prior to the festival to make travellers aware of the grand event.
In all the international travel events that Department of Tourism participated this year, including the ITB-Berlin and New York Times Travel Show, Odisha Tourism had Nabakalebara as its theme.
On the other hand, JK Mohanty, Chairman of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Odisha (HRAO), said though Nabakalebara Rath Yatra was marketed aggressively both in national and international markets, it could not bring in adequate number of foreign visitors. “Had there been direct international flights, more visitors could have come from other countries,” he said.
Last year, 212 international travellers visited Puri during Rath Yatra and 187 during Bahuda Yatra. They were mostly from countries like Japan, Sri Lanka, Italy and the US. In 2013, the number of international travellers on both the occasions was a little over 150.
- 258 foreigners visited Puri on the Rath Yatra day
- Over 300 more are expected on Bahuda and Suna Besha of the Trinity
- The visitors were from Russia, France, Italy, Germany, UK, US, Japan, Thailand and Sri Lanka
- The maximum of the visitors, around 60, were from Japan
- 700 foreign devotees from ISKCON also visited Puri to take part in Rath Yatra