The hotel and the tourism sector, battered by the serial shutdowns and lockdowns in the country, is struggling to get back on its feet. Various policy initiatives by the govt and promotional measures by the industry players are helping the sector revive its business. The Swosti Group, a leader in eastern India’s hotel and tourism landscape, has taken a number of initiatives to help the state’s tourism industry get back its pre-Covid sheen. Excerpts of an interview with the industry veteran and Swosti Group’s CMD JK Mohanty
Your views on the future of tourism and the new travel trends for 2021
Hospitality and the tourism industry was battered by Covid-19. It will take at least a year for the tourism business to get back on its feet. People are scared to travel by air and train. They are scared to attend meetings, social functions as social distancing has become a standard practice. The industry, dependent on air & rail travel, will continue to suffer for next 12 to 18 months. Tour operators need to get creative by designing itineraries that avoid public forms of transportation and crowded tourist areas.
How do you reboot tourism with the new normal?
The new normal of doing hotel business has completely changed with health and safety as important areas. Cleaning and sanitization are a priority now. Government is also equally concerned on health and safety of people. As domestic tourism is restarting, various state governments are in the process of announcing policies to give a new direction to tourism policies. Union ministry of tourism has also circulated a draft tourism policy seeking feedback to make it more robust. The government has incorporated new elements in its policy to promote potential investments in 13 priority areas as well as develop nine tourism circuits to world class standards.
How do you think the proposed international airport at Puri will help?
I am sure our government would create infrastructure for the next century. The international airport at Puri will attract a large number of people to have direct flights to the land of Lord Jagannath. The vision of our Chief Minister to make Puri an international hub is a fantastic idea. If our government declares Ratha Yatra as a national holiday, it will help Odisha tourism to attract more devotees and Puri will become a hub for spiritual tourism.
Every state in the country is spending big on publicity. What makes you so confident that Odisha can become a major tourist destination?
Odisha is the only state which is filled with art, craft, culture, cuisine, beaches, lakes, mountains, tribes, temple architecture, heritage tourism, Odissi dances, tussar silk woven sarees, silver filigree, stone carved statues, sand art exhibitions and eco tourist destinations. When we compare Odisha with other states, we are much richer.
What is the edge of Swosti Group over other hotels?
With more than 300 luxury rooms, the largest convention centre in eastern India, personalized services, 5-star rating (Swosti Premium), Swosti Group has been a pioneer in Odisha’s hospitality industry since 1981. We are committed to making a difference.
What is the secret behind Swosti Chilika Resort’s success?
Swosti Chilika Resort, operational since 2017, is the only resort certified by the Indian Green Building Council. Within a short time the resort, with its luxurious cottages and lush green landscaping, has already made a name for itself. It has become a major tourist destination. The resort has given jobs to local villagers.
What are the major initiatives of your group to attract MICE business?
Odisha has emerged as a major MICE destination. Almost every hotel in the city has been equipped with a convention centre. The tourism department has started spending huge amounts on advertisements to attract MICE tourists. The state tourism in coordination with entrepreneurs conducts roadshows to promote tourism. “Swosti Group has become a hub of MICE business with the largest convention hall (Chanakya) at Swosti Premium, and “Swosti Chilika Resort” is a perfect venue for planning mega conferences and MICE events.
What are your future plans? Any plans to put up more units?
Swosti Group has been focusing on the development of tourism in Odisha since 1981, by putting up hotel and resort infrastructures in different tourist places of Odisha to enable tourists to stay for a longer duration. Now we are planning to expand our hospitality business at Puri, Gopalpur-on-Sea and Bhitarkanika and we are also in the process of acquiring land at Satkosia and Deomali where the group will venture mega tourism infrastructure to attract more footfalls.