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‘We plan to replicate the Eco Retreat Model at suitable times on prominent beaches in Odisha’

Thursday, January 9, 2020, 14:41 Hrs  [IST]

In order to give a big facelift to Odisha's tourism landscape in general and beach tourism in particular, Odisha Tourism has come up with a novel concept of Marine Eco-Retreat at Ramchandi Beach at Konark. Started on December 14, the month-and-a-half long celebration of state's beach potential will have elements of Glamping, Adventure sports, Wellness, Entertainment, etc. to uplift Odisha's tourism quotient among both leisure and adventure-seekers as well as corporate offsites. Vishal K. Dev, IAS, Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Odisha Tourism shares with P Krishna Kumar the motivation behind the initiative and plans to replicate in other destinations.

Q What was the reason for selecting Konark for the first Marine Drive Eco Retreat model, while you have other prominent beaches like Puri?
Our aim was to give tourists once-in-a-lifetime experience and Ramchandi beach made for an idyllic location. The 5-star hotels with pristine blue beach in front, backwaters behind, a forest sanctuary just across the road and Konark Sun Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site just a mile away, was the best one can get. We had huge logistical challenges, but with the response we are getting, I believe it was all worth it.

Q What is the inspiration behind the Marine Drive Eco Retreat and what kind of message the tourism board wanted to send out through it?
Odisha has been lesser known for tourism when compared with other states, but this has changed over last two years. We have received record footfalls from both national and international visitors. We want to invite tourists to explore India's best kept secret. We also need more per-capita expenditure from tourists for the sector to grow exponentially. We have one of the longest coastlines in the country and some of the beautiful tourist destinations. These kinds of events would give a huge facelift to Odisha. We expect Odisha's tourism quotient to go up through these kinds of events.

It is an ideal corporate offsite destination with every ingredient required to make it a wholesome memorable experience. So far the response has been overwhelming with people being surprised by the destination and facilities provided. We are not trying to sell the concept. We are trying to rekindle the traveller that there is in everything to take an adventurous, and at the same time a serene trip to Odisha and create epic memories.

Q What are the different aspects of the Retreat to make it more alluring for different kind of tourists? What is the demand you see for camping/overnights?
We have various offerings for every age group at the Eco Retreat. From Eco Trails to Sand Art classes to adventure sports and spas.

GLAMPING: At the Marine Drive Eco Retreat one can experience a unique luxurious accommodation offering rich thematic ambience, a dedicated dining area and multiple options of staying at the cottages replete with facilities like air-conditioner, television, sofa sets, as per the requirement.

ADVENTURE SPORTS: Odisha is already known as the 'Sports Capital of India' and with a 480 kms coastline to boast of, it has started focusing on adventure sports as well. And who doesn't love an adrenaline rush especially when it's by the water? With activities like jet ski, speed boating, parasailing, paramotoring, ATV, archery, rifle shooting, bicycles, beach volleyball, sorbing, water roller among others on the charts, the Eco Retreat promises to be a thrilling experience.

WELLNESS: While the Ramachandi sand itself makes for a therapeutic walk, the exclusive spa by the sea for guests offers the ultimate detox. The itinerary includes early morning nature trails to the Balukhand-Konark Wildlife Sanctuary which is the best way to resettle one to the instinctive and natural best.

CULTURE MIXTAPE: While niche talents and folk artistes from across Odisha and India are exhibiting their talents every evening, the weekends are packed with star performers like Indian Ocean, Euphoria, Harshdeep Kaur, Salim-Suleman, among others.

Q What are your plans to replicate the concept to other important beach destinations to make it a new tourism model for drawing domestic as well as international tourists?
We plan to replicate the Eco Retreat Model at suitable times of the year on prominent beach stretches along our 482 km coastline, each having its own unique experience.

Golden Triangle– There is a plan to develop a one-km stretch near Konark with beach shacks, eateries, activities and a nice corridor. It will be developed into an active and vibrant zone where people can play, eat and have fun.

Talsari - Udaypur Beach is another 2.5 km long stretch of pristine seashore that we envision as a beach resort, and have kicked off the implementation of its master plan.

Project Shamuka – It is charted to be developed as a special tourism destination. We have received the required clearances. It is a huge project, and dates back to 2008. Many things have changed on the ground since then and accordingly, a world-class master plan is being prepared. Funds have been placed with IDCO for the boundary wall. We plan to bring it to a level, where we can invite private investors to set up facilities.

Q How do you plan to popularise this project in India and overseas? How many visitors do you expect to visit the retreat by end of January when it concludes?
We have launched a 360-degree marketing campaign both nationally and internationally encompassing OOH, Radio, TV, digital and print, and word-of-mouth has also helped tremendously. We already have influencers from every field creating a buzz about it on social media and otherwise. We have full reservation till January 5. The momentum is picking up, and it's not just tourists but also corporate entities who have showed interest in availing our corporate package.

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