Sustainable tourism
Case Study
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Case Study

How a state government transformed into an ecotourism haven

The state government accelerated its economy and created new sources of employment using ecotourism.

Eco conscious tourists in India

How can we prioritize sustainability and attract eco-conscious tourists?

The state government wanted to promote sustainable ways of tourism over the traditional mass tourism.

Odisha is home to some of India's most incredible and diverse destinations, but until 2019, it relied solely on mass tourism, particularly centered around religious and heritage sites. The tourist influx was concentrated in well-known places like Puri and Konark, sidelining the undiscovered gems within the state. Additionally, the coastal regions faced the challenge of natural calamities, limiting private sector investments.

Recognizing the need for change and with a view of unveiling the hidden treasures of Odisha to the world, the state government embarked on a transformative journey. In 2019, it introduced a unique eco-friendly tourism initiative – The Eco-Retreat — focusing on transitioning from mass tourism to sustainable green practices in Odisha. It sought to cultivate a harmonious relationship between visitors and the environment, envisioning top-notch, sustainable infrastructure for a seamless tourist experience. Advocating for sustainable tourism in India, including temporary infrastructure, seasonal operations, and community involvement, the state aimed to enhance its global tourism profile, attract private investments, and establish itself as a pioneering, sustainable tourism brand. This ambitious vision would position the region as a premier, responsible destination, fostering economic growth while preserving the state’s ecological and cultural integrity. 

Figure 1: Objectives of the state government in scaling up Odisha’s ecotourism sector

To achieve these objectives, the government required a reliable partner, capable of conceptualizing and helping implement a robust, sustainable infrastructure for the project. It therefore chose EY to assist in creating a pioneering, eco-friendly tourism experience for its visitors.

Ecotourism in Odisha

EY led various strategic initiatives to build an ecotourism oasis.

Initiatives involved identifying ideal and strategic locations to set up 'Eco-retreats' and help establishing them across the state.

EY orchestrated a series of strategic initiatives to facilitate the establishment of eco-retreats. This involved not only identifying suitable destinations but also engaging with local communities. With a specialized team of experts, ranging from tourism, infrastructure, procurement, communication, to creative specialists, EY spearheaded several strategic initiatives, notably providing investment advisory that transcended the boundaries of the project, while also offering invaluable support in research analysis and promotion within the scope of the eco-retreat initiative.

The first step in the process was identification of seven destinations that could serve as eco-retreats. EY embarked on its mission, conducting extensive field visits and primary surveys covering over 50% of the ecotour nature camps across 15 state districts.  We then strategically recommended locations surrounding hills, beaches, forests, and water bodies that will help enhance the eco-retreat experience for tourists. Places like Konark, Satkosia, Hirakud, Bhitarkanika, Sonapur, Putsil and Daringbadi were then finalized for setting up of eco-retreats. The next steps in the process were:

Figure 2: Strategic green initiatives in Odisha that helped the state build an ecotourism infrastructure.

Additionally, EY also actively engaged in travelers’ interactions and education, while curating tours and itineraries to enhance the overall tourism experience.

Within a span of one year, the first eco-retreat was set up in 2019 in Konark. The model was then replicated across other six destinations.

Eco Retreat Odisha

The eco-retreats have created a multiplier effect on the economy.

The eco-retreats have established pathways for entrepreneurship, while promoting local culture and skills.

Ever since the eco-retreats were set up, the state garnered the interest of various private players for land parcels in and around the seven locations and is receiving numerous investment proposals. The eco-retreat not only helped the state re-brand its identity, but it also helped boost employment opportunities in the state, while retaining a significant tourism spend within the state, that would have typically been done outside Odisha. The ‘glamping’ project began in 2019 and has been a pioneering initiative by the state during the pandemic — a time when the tourism industry was experiencing a halt.

Figure 3: Outcome after the successful implementation of the eco-retreat project

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