Bhubaneswar: Odisha is preparing to open it’s ecotourism destinations for tourists amidst Covid-19 pandemic.The State wildlife wing of forest department with the support of Odisha Tourism has started training and capacity building of managers of different ecotourism destinations of State on Covid Management. IITTM and IHM experts are engaged in the training programme.

Odisha is having more than 40 Ecotourism destinations which includes beach resorts, nature camps at hill stations, rivers, valleys, important tribal belts, forest and wildlife areas. More than 300 rooms are available in these locations.

The Ecotourism model of Odisha has received applauds from different corners of India and abroad being the only State having community concept of Ecotourism. More than 600 community members are managing these properties and hospitality experts are engaged for regular training and monitoring. Around 60% community members are rural women. Presently 7 Ecotour Properties in districts like Nuapada, Koraput, Sundargarh are under construction.

Now due to Covid-19 pandemic since March all Ecotourism properties have been kept closed. Now after the Covid management training of the managers, the destinations would be opened for tourists.

As such since launching of Odisha Ecotourism in 2016, booking is through online portal, cash booking or on-spot booking is very minimal restricted to off- season only as during winters most of the destinations remain booked in advance. The entry tickets are also booked online by night stay visitors to these properties hence no physical contact or paperwork for booking was ever needed.This was made to make visit smooth and hassle free.

Last year performance of Odisha Ecotourism was overwhelming in comparison to previous years. The State saw a jump in number of Eco-tourists and also revenue. More than 30,000 visitors have made night stay in these properties and the State has received revenue of Rs 6.6 crore though after December 2019 there was gradual slowdown of tourists to State. Similipal witnessed more than 5000 night stay visitors and inspite of being new, Barehipani Nature Camp overlooking the beautiful Barehipani Waterfall witnessed healthy flow of quality tourists.Satkosia Sands Resort at Badmul maintained its towering performance as previous years and recorded more than 4000 tourists with revenue of 1Crore.10 Lakhs. During 2018-19 the number of tourists was 20000 and revenue was 5.6 Crore.

PCCF (Wildlife) H.S Upadhyay : We have started training of managers and community members for handling the pandemic situation successfully. We are following multidimensional approach with an objective to restrict further transmission of Covid-19 when our Nature Camps will be opened for tourists.

Director Tourism Sachin Ramchandra Jadhav: “As Odisha’s tourism and hospitality sector opens up, community managed Ecotourism camps will play a central role in our revival efforts, winning tourists’ confidence, hearts and minds. Travellers and tourists under this situation will surely prefer visiting areas amid nature. Along with sustainability, safety and security are our key mantras. To equip our 600 community members working across 40 Ecotourism properties in Odisha with awareness and key skills in prevention and risk mitigation against Covid-19, we are embarking on training programmes with experts associated with IITTM and IHM to conduct the programmes.
Our on-site training sessions, while familiarising them with protocols and best practices.
In our mission to revive tourism and hospitality, we will ensure that Odisha is one of the safest destinations to explore.”