MoT focuses on promoting Buddhist tourism
Archana Sharma – New Delhi
With a view to discuss and develop the potential of Buddhist tourism in India, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) recently organised the International Buddhist Meet at ITC Maurya, New Delhi. Speaking at the occasion, Shripad Naik, Union minister of state for tourism and culture (independent charge), stated, “The Buddhist heritage in India is a unique tourism product with destinations like Bodh Gaya, Khushinagar, Sarnath, etc. The ministry of tourism is actively working towards the strategic promotion of Buddhist tourism with plans to organise roadshows at Buddhist-dominated markets, and develop infrastructure including hotels and other amenities at these destinations. We are providing financial support to state governments for developing Buddhist sites as it is the need of the hour to develop these sites in terms of infrastructure, sanitation, maintenance, connectivity, safety and security.”
Naik also informed that his ministry has advocated the promotion of bilateral tourism ties with Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore, Japan, Korea and other countries of sizeable Buddhist population to exchange greater volume of tourists. He also released the knowledge report ‘Towards Sustainable Spiritualism; Buddhist Tourism – Linking Cultures, Creating Livelihoods and Yes Bank Buddhist Tourist Map’ at the meet.
Emphasising upon the importance of the Buddhist circuit further, Rana Kapoor, president, ASSOCHAM and managing director and CEO, YES Bank, stated, “Today, Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world. Apart from the 450 million Buddhist followers in the world, the Buddhist circuit is an important destination for the vast number of other travellers interested in history, culture or religion. The development of Sarnath-Bodh Gaya patch alone, into a world-class tourism centre is expected to fuel a sizeable 15 per cent annual growth in the tourism industry.”
Ashok Chandra Panda, minister of tourism and culture, Government of Odisha, pitched for the inclusion of Odisha in the proposed Buddhist circuit and requested the Indian Railways to resume services to Buddhist destinations in Odisha, which were stopped recently. He also urged Air India to extend its flights to Phuket from Bhubaneshwar as it is an emerging source market for Buddhist tourism for Odisha.