Bhubaneswar, the mini metropolis is all set to open the doors of its international airport. Will this bring a revolutionary change? Anticipations and excitement are high on heels.
8 years ago when I drove into the city, the whole buzz was about a “big mall” opening. And for the next 3 years, Forum Mart, not Nicco Park, continued to be a blissful hangout zone for couples. Honestly, nothing reminds me of these drastic changes quite like the Sunday afternoons when I visit the new multiplex (BMC-Bhawani Mall) in the city. The city has indeed come a long way in the last half a decade.
From Pantaloons and Forum Mart to Dominos to Subway, the city has many reputable national and international brand names studded all over it. And finally, the real deal: the upcoming international airport.
Will the city integrate well with the exchange like it has with the brand names? I don’t think so.
We are so lacking in terms of technology and infrastructure, I don’t think we are equipped enough to explore the advantages of the intermingling of global population. While sudden changes are a far cry, an immediate afterthought says there is a possibility of revolution in the offing.
I have ideas I wish to share with you people for an anticipated change in trends that can be brought about in say the next five years to meet the demands of the international airport.
Reforming Transportation: An Immediate Need
When, almost every day, I get into a fight with the autorickshaw driver, I simply can’t imagine the harassment that a foreigner may face. And, of course we have the so called “Taxi and Auto associations” that control the fares which change every month.
My agenda – why not implement strict regulations based on AAI? Day in and day out, we face this problem of ever changing rates for taxis and autos and somehow manage it because we are localites. But what about a person who does not know our language let alone a visitor from another country? The haphazard system of bargaining the fare may be a concept we are accustomed to, but for the people for whom Bhubaneswar is a prospective tourist and business location, these non-regulatory prices are a horrendous crime.
In cities like Hyderabad and Kolkata, the use of meter in taxis has been enforced quite stringently. They have a dedicated authentic service and an AAI regulated price structure which is designed on a per kilometer basis. This system is quite a fundamental requirement and should be the first change to be implemented once the international airport is functional.
Fulfilling a basic criterion like transportation, I imagine we can treat our foreign visitors properly and take the city development to the next level.
High-tech Information System: A Boost to Tourism
Have you ever visited our state tourism website? It looks both blank and bland. While the doors for a great tourism and business opportunities is about to open, we are not even ready to introduce ourselves in an acceptable way. Although people have a brief idea about our city, that is insufficient for them to consider it as a place of great importance.
We do not lack in cultural heritage or interesting hot-spots. What we are lagging behind in is our poor advertising and marketing policy. How will people be attracted towards a place which they do not know much about? It is like presenting a wonderful dish without garnishing. Until and unless we inform the prospective visitors about our city and give them a reason as to why they should plan a trip to our city, we can never be a renowned tourism and business center despite our resources. That’s sad truth we’ve been living with since a long time.
The good news is there is a solution. According to a report by business standard, ITDC has listed Bhubaneswar as one of the money spinning and revenue generating centers. With ITDC working in collaboration with OTDC, a real change can be expected in the coming years. Also, hopefully, there is a chance of the Dhauli Peace Park Project coming to life within a year or so. I expect that the undertaking of similar projects sincerely will be a step towards further development in the city.
Moreover, taking up projects is not the only solution. We need to let the people know about the uniqueness of our place. A complete renewal of our tourism website should top the priority list of the government. It has to be all-purpose, from including hot-spots of Bhubaneswar to booking cheap flights and hotels.
Apart from everything else we need to have a strong infrastructure to act as a backbone while exploiting our resources.
A Drive for Cultural Exchange
In 2012, an Odissi dance festival organized by OTDC included a big group from London participating. And gosh, they looked as graceful as any Indian Odissi performer! Another instance of the intermingling of culture was on display with the epic duel of feet between the renowned tap dancer from New York, Jason Samuels Smith and the Kathak maestro Pandit Chitresh Das. As the duo took the audience by storm at Rajarani Temple premise with their enthralling performance, the ODTC suddenly explored the need to organized more of such events that effectively combine Indian and western culture. In fact, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that such performances could be organized to raise funds for various developmental initiatives in the city.
If we are already progressing in accepting the different cultures as a part of our life then why not take a step ahead and make it happen! We can exchange not only dance steps but every distinguished aspect of the connecting countries. With the international flights taking off the ground, the sky is literally the limit.
And yes, I forgot to mention that with proper initiatives taken, a period of five more years can give us potential business opportunities with organizations like JETRO (Japan External Trade Relations Organization and Fashion Trade), Bangkok. Our strongest point being handicrafts and unique handloom which are internationally acclaimed and coveted is a way to set up commercial exchanges. Establishment of proper communication among the connecting countries in terms of dealing with visitors, the impression of our tourism department on their authorities and the scope provided by us for intercultural environment will be the deciding factor for a new era in Bhubaneswar, and the process begins the moment they step on our soil.
The ideas I’ve have mentioned in this post are purely based on my assumptions (insights?) and contingent upon the creation of favorable circumstances by our government and various departments in tandem. So, if you have any “if’s” you wish to share I am all ears.
I’m sure you’ve got a lot to add to this. Let’s exchange ideas, shall we?