BHUBANESWAR: Travellers can eye a whole new experience of Odisha as the State Government is all set to roll out a string of campaigns to boost regional tourism in the post-Covid era. Marking World Tourism Day on Sunday, the launch of ‘Odisha By Road’ campaign will see promotion of some beautiful yet not so popular places of attraction which would be facilitated by the Tourism Department.
As many as 15 itineraries with indicative camping destinations have been prepared for the campaign. The itineraries cover hill-stations, tribal hinterlands, beaches, eco tourism sites, nature camps and experiences like cuisine, heritage, adventure, ethnic encounters, arts and handicrafts, leisure, wildlife and ecotourism.
Since people are less likely to travel by air or train during the Covid times, the campaign aims at extending a good opportunity by travelling through the beautiful roads.
“The Odisha By Road campaign was devised after the key segments - MICE tourism, sports events, spiritual and festival tourism - bore the brunt of the pandemic. The new initiative offers travellers diverse itineraries covering the State’s length and breadth while offering unique experiences,” Tourism
Department Secretary Vishal Kumar Dev said.
Beyond beaches and temples
Odisha is known primarily for its golden triangle of Bhubaneswar, Puri and Konark. People know the State for Lord Jagannath, Odissi dance and beaches. But there are several other treasures nestled in the State's hinterland that are not fully explored.
The State is full of natural miracles as it has 42 eco tourism sites, 47 nature camps and 20 sanctuaries besides its arts and culture while the forests are largely unexplored. The Odisha by Road campaign aims at going beyond the temples and beaches by converting the State’s tourism ecosystem into a treasure hunt. Apart from encouraging intra-state road trips, the focus is on to attract more domestic tourists from neighbouring States like Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal.
Most of the important tourist destinations in Odisha are strategically located as the 480 km long coast has major tourist destinations like Chilika lagoon, Puri, Konark, Gopalpur, Bhitarkanika National Park, Chandipur, Udaypur-Talasari and Dagara beaches besides the Buddhist diamond triangle of Lalitgiri,
Ratnagiri and Udaygiri.
The places of traction in the coastal region can be accessed through National Highway 16 while other destinations like Hirakud, Debrigarh, Satkosia, Mahanadi gorge, Daringbadi, Belghar and Mandasuru silent valley located in western and central Odisha are accessible by NH 55 and easy to travel by road from Nagpur in Maharashtra and Raipur, Bilaspur and Durg in Chhattisgarh.
"The scenic valleys of undivided Koraput district are a pleasure to drive from Visakhapatnam via Araku valley, and a de-tour from Ganjam can also be taken towards Koraput. The patches from Nayagarh to Boudh and Keonjhar to Mayurbhanj via Khiching are extraordinarily beautiful. The State is full of natural miracles. We hope the initiative will help attract more domestic tourists," Tourism Department Director Sachin Ramchandra Jadhav said.
A registration portal will be launched on Sunday. Once the visitors register in the portal, they will be offered a preferred itinerary from which they can choose. They will travel by road and stay at the place of their choice. Tourists will be connected to different stores where Odisha’s handicraft, handloom
products and artefacts are available. The registered tourists will be given discounts. It will not only promote the State’s products, but also encourage tourists to visit again and again, Jadhav said.
Barring some exceptions, the roads in the State are very good to travel by. There is lush greenery along both the sides of roads due to less urbanisation. It is a treasure to drive on the roads pierced through forests and sanctuaries in different regions.
Odisha is gearing to reopen at least 10 nature camps from October 1 in the first phase. The camps are located at Bahamunda, Chhotkei, Dangamal, Daringbadi, Debrigarh, Deras, Mandasaru valley, Mangalajodi, Tarava and Satkosia sand resorts.
"People within and outside the State will be encouraged to travel. A detailed mapping has been done before preparing the itinerary while the wayside amenities have been put in place. Nature is one of our strong points. Local communities have been roped in to run the nature camps. Keeping in mind the health and safety protocols, they have been properly trained in three languages to guide the tourists," the Tourism Secretary said.
The concept of Odisha by Road is that people will travel in small groups comprising family members, relatives or friends so that they can remain safe during the pandemic. “All preparations are complete with the Covid-19 protocol. We are getting good responses for our nature camps in terms of booking. Most of the sites are booked in October within a few days after the booking was started,” Jadhav maintained.
Kalinga Riders: Tourism Ambassadors
Odisha Tourism has also planned to launch a Super Bike Rally (600 cc and above category) marking the World Tourism Day celebrations. The ‘Kalinga Rides’ - as it is called - will have 100 bikers rallying from Infocity to Dhauli covering a stretch of 25 km. They will later visit Daringbadi and Mangalajodi, Koraput and Talasari. They will stay there and share their experience on their blogs and social media posts.
Odisha has 12 Super Bike clubs, including nine in Bhubaneswar. More than 600 members of the clubs have super bikes, including 350 Harley Davisons. Odisha Tourism will sponsor their tours and in return they will promote the places they visit through different mediums. The Odisha Tourism has also roped in Car and Bike magazine Group to promote Odisha in their magazine, social media and digital platforms. A six-member group of bikers started their journey from Vizag early this month. They visited Koraput, Daringbadi, Debrigarh and Hirakud before reaching Bhubaneswar on Saturday.
"The bikers will be provided facilitation in booking at eco tourism sites and Odisha Tourism Development Corporation properties wherever they want to travel. They will be informal brand ambassadors for Odisha. With this initiative, we are actually engaging with the tourists with an objective to give them the best experience besides boosting the rural economy," Jadhav added.
Entrepreneurs from the bikers and travellers' groups will also be invited to explore the State. It is also envisaged to have East India Bikers Festival in Odisha on the lines of the India Bike Week, a model similar to successful Eco Retreat or as a component of one of the Eco Retreats. Popularly known as
glamorous camping events, the Eco Retreats have been planned at five destinations - Ramchandi (Konark), Badmul (Satkosia), Nalitapatia (Bhitarkanika), Daringbadi (Kandhamal) and Hirakud (Sambalpur) between December 15 and February 15.
‘Nimantran’ to promote Odia food
The State Government will also launch a chain of restaurants ‘Nimantran’ focusing on Odia cuisine. Initially, it will operate from OTDC restaurants and later be expanded to other places. The Government has also decided to have Odia food festivals wherever the Tourism department plans road shows now onwards.
The food festivals will be organised in all metros and important cities in the States that contribute a large number of domestic tourists. There are five States - Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh which contribute more than 50 per cent of the domestic tourists in the country. Plans are also afoot to host Odia food festivals in the Tier II and Tier III cities in these States during the tourism road shows. Discussions are also on with Odia chefs at star hotels to organise such food festivals in a big way.
Odisha Tourism has also planned to introduce Food Trucks in important cities and towns in the State. In the first phase, one truck each will be rolled out at Bhubaneswar, Puri and Sambalpur. Depending on the response, it will be scaled up further, the Tourism Secretary added.