EU advisory affects tourist flow to Orissa

"Europeans are not interested in visiting Orissa because of the last year's communal violence. We have tried our best to convince European tour operators, but they showed us the advisory," Orissa Tour Operators Association leader Srikant Mishra said.

High-end tourists from Italy, Netherland, Belgium and other countries were afraid of visiting Orissa for no specific reason, Mishra said and demanded the state government to intervene immediately.

Tourism minister Debi Prasad Mishra, on his part, said "we will certainly take steps to ensure the visit of European tourists to the state." The EU in its August 17 advisory claimed that religious tension between the Hindu majority and Christian minority, still remained high.

"We, therefore, advise against travel within the state and in rural areas, particularly in the districts of Kandhamal and Bargarh," the advisory reads.

The advisory was issued even though diplomats comprising Second Secretary of British High Commission Ruth Wills, First Secretary of the Italian Embassy Gabriele Annis, Deputy Head of Mission in the Irish Embassy Pat Bourne, Second Secretary of Netherland Embassy Bart Paans and Deputy Head of Mission from Finland Embassy Lissa Valijento visited Orissa last year.

The EU team had then expressed satisfaction over the improved situation in the state, a senior home department official said.

"There has been no violence in Kandhamal since October, 2008. People celebrated Christmas and New Year's Day with full fervour as peace returned to the tribal dominated district," Superintendent of Police (Kandhamal) Praveen Kumar said.

The EU's advisory came at a time when the state government was expecting an inflow of over 2 lakh foreign tourists, said the President of Tour Operators.

While there was a fall in the number of foreign tourists inflow to Orissa last year, the state government claimed that 40,000 foreigners visited it. "We do not believe in the government's claim," said a tour operator.

Orissa had witnessed large-scale violence in the aftermath of the killing of VHP leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati in August last year.

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