[India] Tourism Ministry outlines strategy to develop Buddhist circuit

The Hindu
NAVADHA PANDEY
July 17, 2014

The Buddhist circuit is a globally important route for over 500 million Buddhists. This file picture is of the temple in Bodh Gaya, Bihar.

The Buddhist circuit is a globally important route for over 500 million Buddhists. This file picture is of the temple in Bodh Gaya, Bihar.

The Government on Thursday launched a strategy for integrated tourism development of Buddhist circuit in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Shripad Naik, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Tourism and Culture released the strategy document ‘Investing in Buddhist circuit’. It is a combined initiative of the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, the State Governments of Bihar and UP, the private sector, Buddhist monasteries and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). IFC is an arm of the World Bank.

IFC worked with a government constituted multi stakeholder Buddhist Circuit Steering Committee to develop a five year roadmap to establish the Buddhist Circuit as a tourist and pilgrimage destination.

The roadmap outlines actions needed to transform Buddhist sites and estimates about $200 million investment required to improve infrastructure, hotels, facilities, and services of logistics companies and tour operators along the circuit, both through public and private participation.

Naik said, “Buddha circuit has been taken on priority. Our efforts are to attract PPP investment for this. Work will start in a month or so. For the other four circuits, work will be started soon.”

On the investment behind the project, Anand Kumar, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism, said, “Total cost of the project will be around Rs. 450 lakh, out of which IFC will be contributing Rs. 180 lakh (40 per cent), Rs. 225 lakh (50 per cent) coming from the Ministry of Tourism, and Rs. 22.5 lakh (5 per cent) each from the State Governments of UP and Bihar.”

For subsequent projects what percentage will come from the partners will be decided in due course. However, as far as the investment is concerned, it will come from the domestic investors and our endeavour will also be to attract the international investor, Kumar added.

The Ministry of Tourism will be organising the 4th International Buddhist Conclave in Bodh Gaya and Sarnath from September 26 to 28, in association with UP and Bihar to promote the heritage, Naik said.

Through this, the Government will try to devise new business strategies for marketing Buddhist heritage, the Minister added.

The Buddhist circuit is a globally important route for over 500 million Buddhists, along the life of Buddha across Nepal and India, from Lumbini, where he was born; Bodhgaya where he attained enlightenment; to Kushinagar; where Buddha achieved salvation.

Statistics indicate that the trail attracts a small fraction of potential Buddhist tourists each year. The World Bank Group would eventually integrate Lumbini into the circuit as well.

Serge Devieux, IFC Director for South Asia, said, “Private sector participation is critical in this initiative. IFC will assist in nurturing a business environment conducive for private sector, encourage and invest in local enterprises, and foreign investors to build robust infrastructure, hotels, enable quality services along these sites.”

The Federation of Associations of Indian Tourism and Hospitality, a national body of travel and hospitality associations, contributed to developing the roadmap. “We have been actively pursuing the strategy of making India a world class Buddhist tourism destination, an initiative approved in the recent budget,” said Sarabjit Singh, Vice Chairman of the Association.

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