Experience Odisha, Celebrate Odisha!
By Anjana Tripathy
How many people know Daringibadi— the ‘Kashmir of Odisha’? He asks with a hint of despondency in his voice. Call him a visionary, a pioneer in his field or a business magnate with oodles of business acumen; one can always gauge his unbridled passion to champion the cause of Odisha Tourism, on a national and international level. Well, as we warm up to observe ‘World Tourism Day’ on 27th September, we are referring to none other than Mr. Jitendra Kumar Mohanty—CMD, Swosti Group & Chairman, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Odisha [ HRAO]. He has also been appointed as a member of the State Tourism Advisory Council. Right from the time when he was a student at Delhi University in 1974, Mr. J.K. Mohanty was exposed to the best of hotels in Delhi during those days. Ever since, he nursed a burning aspiration to have something as spectacular in his home state, Odisha. Back then, Odisha only had Hotel Rajmahal and Hotel Pushpak to flaunt in the Hospitality and Tourism sector. Mr. Mohanty’s relentless efforts in this direction gave shape to what is now known as Hotel Swosti Grand, in 1984, Swosti Premium and Swosti Premium Palm Resort, Gopalpur in 2000 and Swosti Chilika Resort in 2017. Always a firm believer in Odisha’s vast potential for tourism, Mr. Mohanty feels there is unlimited scope in areas like beach tourism, eco-tourism, cultural tourism, spiritual tourism, wild life tourism, forest tourism, tribal tourism! “Odisha Tourism is yet to tap its peak potential unlike states like Goa and Kerala, where the inhabitants are far more tourist-friendly and aligned with the promotion of their state’s tourism. This is what has been missing in the mindset of our people in Odisha”, he shares passionately. He feels that the masses of Odisha need to change their mindset and become more pro-tourism to increase the number of footfalls in Odisha and witness the richness that this state has been endowed with. Thanks to his perseverance the government and the bureaucrats have been convinced about the revenue and foreign exchange earning potential of tourism, which could well be the driving force of the future economy. Mr.Mohanty’s concerted drive bore fruits in the shape of initiatives like the ‘Visit Odisha’ campaign and the ‘Odisha Tourism Conclave’ held successfully in June, 2017. The Odisha Tourism Conclave, 2017 brought in individuals from all walks of life – tourism experts, politicians, bureaucrats, media[national as well as international ], hoteliers, tour operators, travel agents, industrialists, aviation industry experts, members of the CII, Utkal Chamber of Commerce, FICCI, IATO and including citizens of Odisha. Various proactive brainstorming sessions were held and eventually the diverse suggestions and recommendations were documented and will soon be passed on to the decision makers. This conclave, not just attempted to create awareness about Odisha’s high tourism potential but also to bridge the gap between the experts and the decision makers. Currently Mr. Mohanty is exceedingly positive about the Odisha government’s fresh perspective and zeal towards the Tourism industry, catalysed by the Chief Minister, a widelytravelled person himself. He is confident that the much anticipated Shamuka Beach near Puri, would be a runaway hit with the tourists and will elevate Odisha Tourism to newer heights. There are numerous significant milestones that Mr. Mohanty nostalgically looks back at during the thirty-year old journey as CMD of the Swosti Group. He amusingly reminisces that in 1993, when he was making a presentation at the World Trade Centre in New York, a few Americans had enquired as to why the hotel tariffs in Odisha were so marked down and he had wittily replied that it was because the Americans had still not visited Odisha! He fondly recalls another memorable incident, that occurred last year during a presentation at San Francisco, where he was accompanied by 45 tour operators from Odisha where an elderly American couple revived their memories of the ‘tomato khajuri khatta’ that they had relished in Odisha. “The newly constructed Internat i onal Terminal at Bhubaneswar Airport will help boost Odisha Tourism but again the international traffic has to grow to make the entire infrastructure, commercially viable. Air Asia’s direct flight from BBSR to KL has paved the way for international traffic in the forth-coming years, he shares. The illustrious Tourism veteran feels that the introduction of the GST was a positive measure and though it initially faced a lot of opposition, everyone has now come to terms with it and accepted it. Also being the proprietor of ‘Swosti Institute of Management & Social Studies’ [ SIMSS ], which imparts quality education and professional training in Hospitality and Tourism Management, Mr. Mohanty acknowledges the huge demand for professionally trained personnel in the tourism sector and is happy that his students have been successfully placed in various 5-star properties and esteemed organisations. “The graduates and post-graduates in Hospitality and Tourism Management find employment in diverse sectors apart from hotels, like – the aviation sector, cruise lines, retail sector, BPOs, hospitals, and railway catering services”, he adds. Mr. Mohanty advises budding hoteliers to select their location strategically before finalising their ambitious hotel projects in Odisha even as he is quick to add that there are plenty of such locations in Odisha. He firmly believes that competence and not gender, is the deciding factor in the Tourism scenario, Mr. Mohanty identifies Mrs. Asha Mohapatra as a promising female hotel professional in Odisha, “I will never think of any property outside Odisha but will rather pursue my commitment towards Odisha Tourism. I do not consider Tourism as my business, but a passion that drives me incessantly! “, he signs off.