By Nageshwar Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, November 30, 2018: A state’s reputation is a delicate thing. Of late, Odisha – rich in natural resources, minerals, long coast line, heritage and culture, has shed its backward image to emerge as a welcoming place to live, work and do business.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, even the opponents will agree, has been able to bring a paradigm shift in the state’s image makeover with two major events this month. First the second Make in Odisha Conclave saw literally the presence of who’s who of Indian business early this week. This is now followed by the most momentous event – Men’s Hockey World Cup to keep Odisha highlighted on the international stage.

Both the events will go a long way to provide a positive spin on a state that has traditionally been considered backward.

Tourism industry is the greatest beneficiary with foreign tourists turning out in large numbers in Bhubaneswar which dons a ceremonial look with spruced up roads leading to the swanky Kalinga Stadium hosting the Hockey World Cup.

Bhubaneswar, determined to position as the country’s sports capital, is playing host to the 14th edition of Men’s World Cup Hockey. Sixteen teams are vying for the coveted title.

“The Hockey World Cup has given a boost to tourism and hospitality industry in the state like never before notwithstanding infrastructural bottlenecks. The mega sports event has brought Odisha in the international tourist map and we all stakeholders must strive to grab this opportunity to position the state as the ultimate tourist destination”, says J K Mohanty, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Odisha (HRAO) chairman and managing director of Swosti Group of Hotels.

In fact the hoteliers and tour operators are overwhelmed by the arrivals of tourists – both domestic and foreign tourists. “We are re-routing the guests as hotel rooms in Bhubaneswar-Puri-Konark route are packed. They are being accommodated at locations like Angul, Ratnagiri, Chilka, Cuttack and Dhenkanal”, says Benjamin Simon, a leading tour operator in the state.

“In this year’s peak season, the arrivals of foreign tourists have surged by about 50 per cent, beating the traditional year-on-year (y-o-y) growth of 10-15 per cent thanks to the ongoing Hockey World Cup. This season, the growth has been exceptional. All the rooms have been sold out in Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Puri”, Simon added.

More than 2000 foreign tourists have already landed and during the three week long event, at least 30000 are expected to throng the state. “These tourists are expected to bring in a minimum revenue of Rs 30 crore in the next one month. Odisha is an unbelievable destination and post-World Cup, the foreign tourists are certain to flood exiting places in the state”, he asserted.

From 12 flights landing and taking off every day, it has gone up to 55 now and it has already set a record of sort. “We all stakeholder must grab this opportunity to convert Bhubaneswar as the Aviation Hub by facilitating e-Visa and other issues”, Simon added.

The capital city here has already played host to a string of major international sports events like FIH Champions Trophy 2014, Indo-Japan Test Series 2015 and Asian Athletics Championships 2017, Hockey World League Finals 2017 and Hero Super Cup 2018. The city is host to Kalinga Lancers team under Hockey India League since inception. The Odisha government is also sponsoring the national Men’s and Women’s hockey squads, in the senior and junior categories.

It is needless to say that The World Cup has paved the way for the state to emerge as the gateway to South East Asia, a dream cherished by the chief minister and scores of entrepreneurs. Both the World Cup and Odisha Conclave are major milestones in the ongoing process of attracting tourists, business and talent. Now the challenge before all the stakeholders is to facilitate skill and knowledge enhancement and also understanding of international requirements.

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