Scheduled from December 14, 2019 to January 31, 2020, Odisha Tourism’s Marine Drive Eco Retreat, Eastern India’s first Glamping festival is giving tourists a unique experience of Glamourous Camping on Ramchandi beach. In an exclusive interview, Steena Joy spoke to Vishal K Dev, IAS, Commissioner-cum-Secretary, Odisha Tourism to get his insights on the unique initiative and the hotel investment pipeline in the state
What is the USP of the Marine Drive Eco Resort? What has been the response?
The Marine Drive Eco Retreat is situated by the pristine Ramchandi beach with backwaters behind. There is a sanctuary across the road and Konark Sun Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage site just a mile away. 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 in both national and international visitors. We need more per-capita expenditure from tourists for the sector to grow exponentially. Activations such as the Marine Drive Eco Retreat would give a huge facelift to Odisha.
We realised early last year that Puri Konark Marine Drive, despite housing a beautiful synthesis of heritage, nature, artistic finesse and food, was largely a day tourism destination. Its potential as a premium beach destination was underexplored. Given the grave impact of cyclone Fani, we had fortified our vision with the principle of sustainability. But our quest to develop the destination as an experience rich beach tourism hub of global standards was undaunted.
Initial brainstorming sessions on beach camping, and comparative studies on emerging segments such as glamping made us home in on this concept, which has worked wonders in destinations such as Kutch in Gujarat. Hence we resolved to undertake this project. The concept of Glamping i.e. Glamorous Camping has caught on with not only the current generation but also people of different age groups. Right from articulating the vision down to its specifics, to bringing about interdepartmental and multi-stakeholder consensus on the vision, to procuring the services of an experienced event curator, to planning the project development including resource mobilisation and infrastructure works, a lot of intellectual, human and technological dedication has gone into it. The response so far has been overwhelming with packed bookings till the first week of January 2020. The Eco Retreat offers 50 luxurious Swiss Cottages offering rich thematic ambience, a dedicated dining area and facilities like air-conditioner, television, sofa sets, etc and adventure activities like jet-ski, Speed boating, parasailing, ATV, archery, rifle shooting, etc as well as cultural events. The Marine Drive Eco Retreat has been developed as an environmentally sustainable model incorporating best practices in material utilisation, zero liquid and sewerage discharge and holistic waste management.
What was the project cost?
The total investment in the project is just over Rs 6 crore.
After Ramchandi Beach, which are the other glamping sites which the tourism department has marked out for Eco Retreats?
We are intent on replicating this glamping model along the 482 km coastline of Odisha, at different and compatible times of the year, like Talsari and Gopalpur. We are also working seamlessly with Departments such as the Dept. of Forest and Environment, and District Administrations, to activate niche glamping events such as the Bhitarkanika Mahotsav coming up later in January 2020, organised by the Kendrapada District Administration in collaboration with the Departments of Tourism and Forest & Environment. 50 tents will be available for those who wish to camp, coupled with adventure activities. Cultural recreation and entertainment will also be hosted.
What subsidies/tax holidays/land banks is the Odisha government offering to attract hotel investment into the state?
- Capital Investment Subsidy @ 20 per cent for eligible projects, with an additional five per cent for investments in new tourism projects around Chilika Lake, in Koraput – Bolangir – Kalahandi (KBK), Kandhamal and Gajapati l Interest subsidy @ five per cent per annum subject to maximum of Rs 1 crore for five years l 100 per cent Stamp Duty exemption on land purchase
- 100 per cent reimbursement of land conversion charges
- Exemption from electricity duty up to contract demand of 5 MVA for five years of consumption
- Reimbursement of 75 per cent (male worker) to 100 per cent (female worker) of employer’s ESI/EPF contribution for five years
- Training cost reimbursement at @ Rs 2000/- per employee trained within three operating years
- In terms of landbank, the department has identified new land parcels at Konark-Puri Marine Drive area, Dhauli, Khurda, Ganjam totalling to approx. 430 acres. Our strategic objective is to consolidate allottable land bank of 2000 acres for tourism and hospitality development.
What accommodation infrastructure is in the pipeline?
At present, most of the new investments in the hotel sector are coming up in and around the golden triangle. The department has also begun implementing its Development Masterplan for Talsari- Udaypur Beach which includes both luxury and budget hotels in its plan. Among key investments coming up are Mayfair Hotels’ five-star deluxe resort including a golf course at Satapada, besides a complex with a world class Convention Centre and 250 rooms in Bhubaneswar.
The Swosti Group will be launching the Palm Beach Resort at Gopalpur by 2023. Real Estate major DN Homes will be setting up two luxury properties at Gopalpur and Tampara respectively and are looking to begin operations in FY23. Vivanta by Taj Hotels should be operational in Bhubaneswar by mid 2020 while ITC’s investment in Bhubaneswar under its chain of WelcomHotels will also begin operations this year.
Accor Group will also be setting up its maiden hotel under the Novotel brand in Bhubaneswar in the next 2.5 years. The department is also in contact with prominent hotel brands for setting up 4-star plus luxury hotels and resorts across the state.