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Recommendations to the Hon’ble Tourism Minister– Infrastructure, IT and Skill Development Key to Success of the Buddhist Tourism Circuit

Sep 18, 2014   17:21 IST 

Buddhist heritage spans a long and rich history dating back almost 2,500 years. While Buddhism is followed by 7% of the world’s population, India holds the unique distinction of being the origin of the Buddhist philosophy and home to a number of significant destinations that Lord Buddha traversed on his path of enlightenment. With development of the sector accorded priority by the Government, it is imperative that we harness the immense potential of the Buddhist Tourism Circuit. The Sarnath-Bodh Gaya patch alone is expected to fuel a sizeable 15% annual growth in the Tourism industry.


Towards the fast track growth of the Tourism in the country, it is an imperative that we must harness the potential of Buddhist Tourism Circuit. Today, Buddhist Tourism has the potential to shape the contours of India's cultural diplomacy as we engage with our partners in East and South East Asia regions. The Buddhist Circuit is not only an important pilgrimage destination for the 450 million practicing Buddhists, but also for the vast number of other travelers interested in history, culture or religion.


Further, the Buddhist pilgrimage not only brings in large volume of tourists, but foreign exchange as well to our shores. As such, the development of this sector has been accorded priority by the Central Government in its first budget itself with Hon’ble Union Finance Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley, focusing on the development of Sarnath-Bodh Gaya patch of Buddhist Circuit. The development of this hub alone, into a world class tourism centre is expected to fuel a sizeable, 15% annual growth in the Tourism industry of the Buddhist circuit.


The first visit of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to a South Asian country was Bhutan - our neighbor which is predominantly Buddhist, and then to Nepal, where Gautam Buddha was born. And now, Japan, where Buddhism is a significant religion. The visit to Japan witnessed the signing of a MoU to develop Varanasi into a ‘smart city’ by using the experience of Kyoto, the ‘smart city’ of Japan. Incidentally, Kyoto is a heritage city with immense Buddhist culture and this partnership will enhance cooperation in heritage conservation, city modernisation and in the fields of art, culture and academics.


I would like to highlight few focus areas that can be collectively realized in order to provide significant boost to this critical sector:


1. Infrastructure Development - The Landmark infrastructure projects, such as the proposed Kushinagar International Airport, will provide a great boost to the tourist traffic

  • We must ensure that this project is completed in time to leverage it effectively for Increasing the International & domestic Tourist Flow

  • Further, it is important to develop the ancillary infrastructure esp. visitor amenities like Tourist Information Centers / Contact Centers. PPP mode will be integral to carry forward required infrastructure upgrades.

  • Moreover, we need to ensure tourist friendly, fair & dependable, transportation across other modes as well. Needless to say, safety of tourists, especially Women, must be accorded utmost priority; a point re-iterated by Hon’ble Tourism Minister at the “National Conference of State Tourism Ministers”, recently, on 21st Aug.

  • This is also extremely important for “Enhancing the visitor Experience” –One of the strategies outlined by the Government.  






2. India should look to replicate successful ideas / initiatives from other countries:

  • Republic of Korea’s ‘Temple Stay’ Programme provides a unique opportunity to domestic & international tourists to experience Korean Buddhism, its lifestyle & rituals.

  • It entails staying at a traditional Buddhist temple and engage in daily monastic activities. This programme has had more than 850,000 participants in the last decade in Korea

  • India’s rich Buddhist heritage should also be made more accessible to tourists through such programs


3. Collaboration with International Agencies - The Government under the guidance of Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has collaborated with the World Bank - IFC, Japan International Cooperation Agency etc., primarily for Infrastructure development of Buddhist Circuit. We must continue to reach out to such valuable international agencies for other areas including Skill Development, Brand Building, Involvement of local communities.


4. Skill Development – A Skilled tourism workforce, especially for niche tourist segments is very important. Specialized course in tourism are need of the hour for capacity building.

  • It is important to upgrade skills of all stakeholders including domestic tour operators, guides etc with short term trainings / courses on salability / Marketing of Buddhist Tourism circuits / Heritage Sites etc


5. Moreover, Integrating Technology & Tourism is critical to fulfill its vast potential. I am pleased to apprise you that YES BANK in association with the Ministry of Tourism, launched the ‘YES BANK-Incredible India Travel Card’ to make travel within India a cashless, trouble free experience. Introduction of tourism specific mobile apps for instant information and communication and similar innovative ideas can achieve the true convergence potential of Travel, Tourism & Technology.



The Government has demonstrated a strong focus in the Tourism & Hospitality sector through significant budget allocations such as INR 500 Crore for developing five tourist circuits, INR 100 Crore for National Mission on Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD), INR 200 Crore for National Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY), among others.


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.  


Rana Kapoor

President, ASSOCHAM

(LtoR): Shri. Shri Shripad Yesso Naik, Hon’ble MoS (I/C) for Tourism & Culture, Mr. Rana Kapoor (President, ASSOCHAM and MD & CEO, YES BANK)
(LtoR): Shri. Shri Shripad Yesso Naik, Hon’ble MoS (I/C) for Tourism & Culture, Mr. Rana Kapoor (President, ASSOCHAM and MD & CEO, YES BANK)
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