The Odisha government is planning to launch cruise services in five locations in the state by involving private players, Tourism Minister Jyoti Prakash Panigrahi said on Sunday. The plan to launch cruise services on Chilika Lake, River Mahanadi, Bhitarkanika mangroves, Satkosia gorge and Hirakud reservoir got delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and it is now being given a push, he said. “The proposal to introduce day cruise services on the five water bodies with private participation has been in place for quite some time and now, the process is being stepped up,” Panigrahi told PTI here.
The tourism department has already invited an Expression of Interest (EoI) for operating day cruise services and interested private operators have been asked to come up with their plans by July 10, he said. Observing that several projects in the tourism sector have been affected due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the minister said the state government is keen to accelerate the pre-launch procedures and complete the tender process. The day cruise project will give a major boost to the tourism sector in Odisha by attracting a large number of visitors once the coronavirus-induced situation improves, Panigrahi said.
Noting that Odisha has immense tourism potential, he said the state is endowed with a 482-km-long coastline, five major rivers, several reservoirs and water bodies including the famous Chilika, the largest brackish water lake in Asia. All these water bodies possess tremendous tourism potential. To tap it, the state government is planning to develop day cruise services on the five water bodies to begin with, the minister said. The tourism department will facilitate permission from the authorities concerned for the day cruise services, a senior official said.
The state government will soon unveil a new Tourism Policy 2020, offering many fiscal incentives to water sports, adventure sports, houseboats, cruise tourism projects and aquariums and aqua-parks to promote private sector investments, Panigrahi said.
The new policy has been prepared after wider consultations and taking into consideration the views and suggestions of all the stakeholders, he said. This apart, the state government has also framed Boat Rule 2017 to regulate water sports activities in the state after the Centre gave fiscal incentives for projects like cruise vessels and cruise terminals, an official said. For the upcoming cruise project, investors need to submit their proposals mentioning locations, project plans specific to each location, operational mechanism, proposed activities, support expected from the state government and approximate project cost for consideration, he added.