Make in Odisha Conclave 2018: Investing in the Land of Natural Grandeur
The discussions at Make in Odisha Conclave 2018 shed light on how Odisha Tourism is leading by example to mainstream sustainable tourism
The sector seminar on Tourism Investment during the second day of Make in Odisha Conclave 2018 at Bhubaneswar’s Janata Maidan witnessed a packed house receiving deep insights on the tourism development from among the most credible names in the industry.
Vishal Dev IAS, Commissioner and Secretary, Tourism Department, Government of Odisha, gave a quick introduction to the state’s tourism scenario, and briefly discussed the investment opportunities at identified spots across the state. Given that tourist inflow in the state has been consistently growing at 9% CAGR, with tourist spending growing at 21% CAGR, the proposed projects promise to cater to the rising demand that Odisha’s aggressive destination promotion campaigns and packed event calendar have fuelled, including the upcoming Odisha Men’s Hockey World Cup in the capital city.
Satyajeet Rajan IAS, Director General (Tourism), Government of India, expressed confidence in the state-government’s timely push to tourism, that is well synchronised with the infrastructure and connectivity efforts of the Government of India and of states, primarily through UDAN Regional Air Connectivity Scheme.
Ashok Chandra Panda, Odisha’s Hon’ble Minister of Tourism, re-emphasised the state government’s strategic view of the tourism sector, and its planned efforts to boost investment in tourism, chiefly through the Updated Tourism Policy 2016, besides consistent campaigns through events such as Odisha Travel Bazaar 2018, which witnessed participation by 60 foreign tour operators, and prominent national operators. The minister articulated the Government’s approach towards internationalising its tourist destinations by pushing for more direct international air connectivity with Bhubaneswar.
The minister urged the Government of India to include the Buddhist circuit of Ratnagiri-Lalitgiri-Udayagiri under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme so as to develop the destination to its full potential. The minister gave an account of the Government’s efforts to resolve all pending issues pertaining to land requirements and CRZ clearances for the high profile Shamuka Project in Puri, and called upon investors and entrepreneurs, besides tourism sector associations to complement the Government’s efforts.
The session witnessed two insightful panel discussions moderated by Prashanth Rao Aroor of IntelliStay Hotels, which focused on the twin topics of ensuring credible returns on hospitality investment, and sustainable tourism to preserve the essence of Odisha, labelled as ‘India’s best kept secret’.
Rattan Keswani, of Lemon Tree Hotels, expressed optimism about the wide consumer base rapidly transitioning towards a state of affluence and discretionary spending, which augured well for tourism. Nikhil Sahni of Yes Bank spoke about the long-standing demand to grant infrastructure status to a greater stock of tourism projects by lowering the threshold from INR 250 crore to INR 50 crore, so as to boost the suitability and accessibility of credit instruments for the sector.
Souvagya Mohapatra of Mayfair Hotels, Aseem Kapoor of Hyatt Hotels, Anshu Sarin of Berggruen Hotels, Dinesh Chadha of Taj Hotels, and Gyana Das of SAMHI Hotels, expressed their optimisim about the future of the sector, especially in the state, and gave their insights on diverse segments and sub-sectors like high revenue generating MICE (Meetings – Incentives – Conferences – Events) tourism and experiential tourism.
In terms of policy, the panellists emphasised the need to model investment offerings on lease basis to make hotel accommodations more cost-effective and affordable. Another key concern expressed was the need to redesign training curricula in tune with emerging demands of the hospitality industry.
The trends and implications of gradual separation of brand ownership of properties and their management were discussed, while acknowledging the inevitability of further diversification of investment models.
In her address, Gurmeet Sachdev, publishing director, ITP Media, elaborated on how the Odisha government is working actively on establishing major tourism hubs in the state as integrated hospitality destinations for tourists from across the globe while also simultaneously catering to the rising need of business travellers. She also highlighted on the fact that the state’s improved infrastructure and air connectivity led to record footfall of foreign tourists, especially from Southeast Asia.
The second panel focused on sustainability through community participation and emerging models such as responsible tourism. Suresh Chandra Mahapatra IAS, Additional Chief Secretary, Forests & Environment, Government of Odisha, highlighted the fact that Odisha is among the few states whose forest cover has grown in the last 20 years, along with improving forest intensity. He introduced the department’s role in managing about 25 night stay eco-tourism properties which hosted more than 23,000 tourists in 2017, apart from several camping sites, with local community participation.
Dr Vithal Kamat, owner of Kamat group, commended the Government of Odisha for playing the optimal role of a facilitator and enabler, while granting considerable investment freedom to the sector. He emphasised on the quality of experience and service delivery that is the key to economically sustaining environmentally and socially sustainable models of hospitality.
Pronab Sarkar of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) emphasised on boosting tourism marketing and promotion for key consumer groups such as young travellers, who are increasingly experimental in terms of experiential and eco-tourism. He also expressed optimism about the high potential for MICE tourism and niche products such as River Cruises that Odisha has.
Sumesh Mangalassery of Kabani Tours cited the example of the award winning Mangalajodi model of responsible tourism based on community participation, to stress on the need to ensure incorporation of community participation and sustainability considerations in the planning stages of the tourism product. Dhimant Bakshi of Adlabs Entertainment spoke of the need for ‘manmade amusement tourism products’ to complete the rich experience of natural experiences that Odisha has to offer.