J K Mohanty, President, HRAO and CMD, Swosti Group had some unique ideas up his sleeves. Speaking at the 3rd edition of Odisha Tourism Conclave held at Swosti Premium Hotel, Bhubaneshwar, he suggested the state’s tourism stakeholders to market Odisha on the lines of Thailand and Bhutan, focussing on aspects such as the happiness quotient. He illustrated his argument by adding that top Indian movie stars were being roped in by several of the top destinations, the world over, to highlight their offerings. Odisha needed to create a similar outreach, enhancing the state’s visibility in the global marketplace to adequately attract international visitors, he said. He made specific mention of New Zealand, Dubai and Thailand and exhorted the state tourism department to create the branding of Odisha on similar lines.
Odisha’s perception as a poor state needed to change, he insisted. He argued that the state was not only endowed with riches below the land, but there were more riches yet untapped, referring to the travel and tourism sector. “We are sitting on a gold mine,” he said, indicating the untapped potential of the state’s tourism sector.
Suggesting the way forward to boost emerging segments, the state of Odisha needed to focus on strengthening its offering to attract millennial travellers who were increasingly getting swayed by the lure of adventure tourism, he outlined. The supply systems needed to change to align itself with changing times, to cater to the younger generation, he added. He shared that the global adventure tourism market was currently being pegged at 490 billion USD and it was an opportunity that needed to be looked into. He said that the millennials were looking for the “joy of consumption” and it encompassed art, culture, cuisines and local community-based tourism.
Air-connectivity, or the lack of it, was a handicap, he noted, adding that Air India’s decision of revoking its Bangkok-Bhubaneshwar flight operation has had an adverse impact on businesses.
Speaking on the need for augmenting the quality and quantity of hospitality infra in the state, he advocated developing more accommodation infrastructure, tourist facilitation centres and skill-development programs. He shared the example of Puri, noting that accommodation was scant, especially during the Rath Yatra, and there was a need to create more destinations in the nearby areas to disperse traffic, ensuring the adherence to the carrying capacity of destinations.
In his address, he made specific reference to the need for allocating more funds for online marketing and publicity and suggested that as much as 20-30 percent of the total budget on tourism could be channelled for the online outreach. He insisted that “a responsive and interactive web-platform” was a non-negotiable in today’s environment. “Today’s travellers, especially millennials, spend half of their time looking at content on online platforms and social media. Therefore, platforms like YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram and others are powerful tools for promotion in the tourism sector,” he said.
Listing out some major achievements of the state tourism department, he commended the initiative of having rolled out a new tourism masterplan and stated that investment in the sector was steadily on the rise. He also shared that the state’s travel trade fraternity had mooted developing 9 circuits, linking major tourist destinations, eventually transforming Odisha into a 21-night destination.