Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi, Sept 18:
The Odisha Tourism and Culture Ashok Chandra Panda today pitched hard for the inclusion of Odisha in the proposed Buddhist circuit.
Addressing the ‘International Meet on Buddhist Tourism,’ organized by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) in New Delhi today, the minister pointed out that Odisha has had a special place in the history, art and culture of Buddhism and the state’s rich Buddhist heritage bears testimony to it.
Talking about the poor air connectivity, the Odisha minister said, “I’ve proposed to Air India, which provides services between Delhi-Bhubaneswar-Port Blair, to extend it to Phuket to attract visitors from that region, particularly Buddhist pilgrims from South Asia and South East Asia.”
He also said that the state government has made a strong case before the railway authorities to reinstate the services of the IRCTC sponsored train which earlier used to go to Odisha, so that the idea to look further east will be justified.
Earlier, while inaugurating the ASSOCHAM event, the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Tourism and Culture, Shripad Naik said his ministry, in its bid to promote Buddhist tourism, is planning to rope in more states to be integrated in the Buddhist Circuit apart from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh (UP).
“There are several Buddhist destinations across India, therefore it is the need of the hour to develop these sites in terms of infrastructure, sanitation, maintenance, connectivity, safety and security,” said Naik.
The Minister said that the development of necessary infrastructure like hotels, resorts, roads, leisure clubs and others would spur job creation across the region and thus the Ministry of Tourism is working aggressively towards promoting Buddhist Tourism Circuit in India.
Terming it as one of India’s most unique tourism product, the Minister said informed that the Buddhist Circuit 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 (World Bank Group).
In his address at the ASSOCHAM summit, the Union minister informed that the Tourism Ministry regularly carries out promotions and holds road shows, exhibitions in the country and overseas Buddhist source markets to encourage inbound tourism to the Buddhist sites in India.
The Tourism Ministry has also advocated promotion of bilateral tourism ties with South Asian countries of Thailand, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Japan, Korea, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Bhutan, Singapore and other countries with sizeable Buddhist population to exchange greater volume of tourists to and fro, said the minister.
Earlier, in his address at the ASSOCHAM summit, the Minister for Tourism for Bihar emphasized upon the need to carry out aggressive promotion and marketing of Buddhist Tourism across the country.
Addressing the ASSOCHAM summit on Buddhist Tourism, His Holiness, The Gyalwang Drupka said that Buddhism has a role to play to promote spirituality, peace and harmony not just in India but across the globe.
In his address at the summit, ASSOCHAM president, Rana Kapoor said, “Given the rapid evolution of global travel dynamics and the potential of the sector, key initiatives such as providing visa on arrival facility for tourists arriving from European and western countries at Varanasi and Bodh Gaya airport and further development of the Buddhist circuits in the 11 Indian states will create viable impetus, vital for continuing critical mass momentum and infusing demand into the under-leveraged inbound segment.”
Among others who addressed the ASSOCHAM summit included – Mr Dipak Haksar, chairman, National Council for Tourism & Hospitality, ASSOCHAM and Mr D.S. Rawat, secretary general, ASSOCHAM.