Odisha to host 49-day eco-retreat event at Puri-Konark beach from today
Billed as eastern India’s first ‘Glamping’ festival or Glamorous Camping, the Marine Drive-Eco Retreat on a kilometre-long stretch of Ramchandi Beach will be inaugurated by chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday evening.Updated: Dec 14, 2019 16:36 IST
Scores of white flags with Odisha Tourism written on them swayed as the mighty waves crashed against the Ramchandi Beach on the Puri-Konark marine drive.
As the white sand shimmered under the sun at the beach, there was a general hubbub a few hours before the 49-day-long Marine Drive-Eco Retreat was to start.
At the 50 luxurious tents pitched right on the beach, workers of the Lucknow-based firm Lalloji and Sons gave last-minute touches before the guests arrived in the afternoon.
Billed as eastern India’s first ‘Glamping’ festival or Glamorous Camping, the Marine Drive-Eco Retreat on a kilometre-long stretch of Ramchandi Beach will be inaugurated by chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday evening.
It is by far the most ambitious tourism project of Odisha that aims to attract high-end tourists through a mix of luxurious accommodation coupled with adventure and water sports activities.
Closely modelled on the annual Rann Utsav held at Rann of Kutch where the Gujarat government organised tented accommodation for the tourists, the Marine Drive-Eco Retreat plans to showcase the best of Odisha’s food and culture for high-end tourists.
The tents with double occupancy are priced between Rs 6000 to Rs 22,000 per night and with an area of 387 sq ft to 1600 sq ft area with master bedroom, luxury toilets, private dining area, spa, air-conditioners, televisions as well as non-alcoholic minibars for the tourists.
The secretary of Odisha tourism department, Vishal Dev, said a whole lot of entertainment, as well as adventure activities, have been planned for the tourists which include things like jet-ski, speed boating, parasailing, ATV, archery, rifle shooting, cycling and beach volleyball.
“The tourists can go for a therapeutic walk on Ramchandi sandbar in the morning as well as go on early morning nature trails in the Balukhand sanctuary. Those wanting to detox themselves can use the exclusive spa. The idea is to give hospitality of a five-star hotel,” said Dev.
“There will be exclusive food counters for the tourists with all kinds of dishes including local cuisine available. Niche talents and folk artistes from across Odisha and India will exhibit their talents every evening. Starting from Salim Suleiman to Palash Sen, there will be something every weekend for the entertainment,” he added.
Dev said the biggest constraint in organising such an event was time.
“In May, the Puri coast was battered by Cyclone Fani that caused extensive damage to flora, fauna and infrastructure. The Konark-Puri coast was the worst affected. However, we have done well to get back on the feet just weeks after the tragedy,” he said.
Tourism officials said from 1.08 crore in 2014, the tourist inflow to Odisha has gone to 1.53 crore in 2018, but what the state wanted was high-end tourists.
“We need more per-capita expenditure from tourists for the sector to grow exponentially. We have one of the longest coastlines in the country and some of the beautiful tourist destinations. These kinds of events would give a huge facelift to Odisha,” said Dev.
“We expect Odisha’s tourism quotient to go up through these kinds of events. It is an ideal corporate offsite destination with every ingredient required to make it a wholesome memorable experience.”
Odisha Tourism Development Corporation’s managing director Hemakant Soy, who is overseeing the organising of the event, said they have seen 25% booking so far. “As it will be a 49-day event, we expect the bookings to go up,” said Soy.
But the event has raised the hackles of environmentalists who allege that setting up of the tents just about five metres from the high tide line is a clear violation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules since even temporary tourism facilities cannot be erected within 50 metres of the high tide line.
“The beach is also a sporadic sea turtle nesting area. The organisers used earthmovers to prepare more than 20 piles of loose sand on the beach for the artists. This will lead to a change in the beach morphology and also loss of sand dunes. Apart from this, the digging will lead to loss of turtle nesting area also,” said environmentalist Biswajit Mohanty.
“Such tourist facilities in the near vicinity of wildlife habitats like Balukhand sanctuary with provision for entertainment by music and games will be a disturbance to wildlife,” Mohanty added.
Officials, however, said 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.
“We have got the necessary clearances from the state government. Though close to the Balukhand sanctuary, the event is being held at a denotified portion of the beach. All rules, including CRZ, have been meticulously followed. There is no permanent construction on the beach,” said Soy.