.........BHUBANESWAR: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today demanded that steps should be initiated by the Centre to provide 'Visa on Arrival' facility at Bhubaneswar airport and include the capital city of Odisha as a stop Colombo-Varanasi flight started by Air India recently.
The chief minister made the requests in separate letters to external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and civil aviation minister A Gajapathi Raju. "The state government has established international connectivity recently with Air Asia starting its operations between Bhubaneswar and Kuala Lumpur.
We had entered into an MoU with Air Asia in which the state government is providing viability gap funding to the international carrier for its operations," Naveen said in his letter to Swaraj. Stating that there has been a good response to this international connectivity with Indian citizens travelling abroad through Bhubaneswar, he said a sizeable number of foreign arrivals have also been noticed. "In order to facilitate the travel of arriving tourists, it is requested that Bhubaneswar be included as a 'Visa on Arrival' Station for citizens of the eligible nations as it would encourage people from countries connected by the recently launched international connectivity and boost tourist footfalls to our state," he said.
In his letter to Raju, the Chief Minister said launching of Air India flight from Colombo to Varanasi recently would be useful in promotion of heritage tourism and in increasing the traffic from Sri Lanka into India.
Stating that Odisha is a land of rich cultural heritage where Emperor Ashoka converted to Buddhism and spread the message across the world, he said the diamond triangle of Buddhist sites has conclusively established that Odisha was an important centre of Buddhism during 3rd century BC.
In the recently held International Buddhist conclave and other discussions in different forums, the tour operators, academicians and revered monks from Sri Lanka have expressed strong desire to come to Odisha to explore Buddhist sites, the chief minister said.
However, as there is no direct air connectivity, Sri Lankan tourist find it difficult to visit Odisha, he said and added, "In order to meet this strong, unmet demand, I would request that Bhubaneswar may be included as a stop for the Colombo-Varanasi flight," he said.