Bhubaneswar, October 5: Even as the Odisha Tourism Department is doing its best to increase the footfall of foreign tourists in the state, a group of Malaysian tourists allegedly faced abuse at the hands of the priest of Alarnath Temple near Puri on Wednesday. The visitors were also driven away from the temple premises.
On their maiden visit to the state, the group, all of them followers of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), had decided to visit the Alarnath Temple, which is located in Brahmagiri. Unlike Lord Jagannath temple in Puri, foreigners are allowed entry to the Alarnath temple.
But to their surprise, the temple priest allegedly misbehaved with them before chasing them away. On the pretext of security check, even the guards forced the Malaysian tourists to take out all their belongings from their luggage.
Traumatised with the whole experience, they were reluctant to visit any other place and cut short their trip and left for their hometown by evening.
Stating that it is shocking incident and an inquiry will be initiated, Tourism Director, Nitin B Jawale said, “It is very unfortunate that Malaysian tourists were heckled by priests and guards. We need to understand that if we behave properly with tourists then only they would say good things about our place when they go back home and that would make more tourists visit the state. Now because of a few people, the image of the state has been ruined and these six tourists may never plan any trip to Odisha in future.”
Tour operator and secretary of the Odisha Tour Operator Association, Yugabrata Kar who was looking after their lodging and transportation arrangements, told MCL, “Right from the shoe stand till the time they entered the temple, they were harassed. At the shoe stand, they were asked to pay around Rs 200 for six pairs of shoes! Similarly, guards forced them to literally display all their belongings while the priest demanded money and when they refused to pay, they were cursed.”
“Since they were the followers of ISKCON, they had plans to visit temples related to Lord Krishna except Jagannath temple as they knew foreign tourists are not allowed inside. However, the incident at Alarnath traumatised all of them, particularly the 65-year-old lady member in the group. She said they felt like terrorists and even the airport authority has never done such a security check. They also said that no Malaysian tourist would ever visit the place, and it took us a lot of effort to convince them that all people are not the same across the state,” added Kar.
“It is really necessary to understand the importance of tourism sector. If we want to boost the tourism industry, its high time to involve people at the grassroot level like priests, cab and auto drivers, restaurants and hotel staff and make them aware about how to behave with tourists. We need to learn something from the Kerala Tourism industry that keeps a watch on everything and makes sure that no tourists are harassed in their state and if such a thing happens, they take strong action against the culprits,” averred Kar.
It may be noted that in month of August, two Italian tourists had also faced a bad experience in the state when they were duped by an online booking site.