India needs more Buddhist tourists

Prahlad Singh Patel, Minister of State (I/C), Tourism & Culture, says that it is imperative to increase the number of Buddhist tourists and pilgrims coming to the country, for which both government and industry need to work together and overcome shortcomings.

Nisha Verma

As the country grapples with a drop in tourist numbers both domestic and international, Ministry of Tourism (MOT) is set out to maximise all possible avenues to better the situation. While some may be new initiatives, some others, like the promotion of Buddhist tourism in India, have been part of MOT’s blueprint for a while now. Keeping with the ministry’s efforts in the furtherance of the segment, Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel recently inaugurated a webinar on cross-border tourism that was organised by Association of Buddhist Tour Operators (ABTO) to promote Buddhist pilgrimage. Speaking at the webinar as the Chief Guest, he highlighted the initiatives taken by Ministry of Tourism for the development and promotion of Buddhist sites in India. Addressing the fact that India receives only 0.05 per cent of global Buddhist tourists and pilgrims, he listed some important Buddhist sites in India and added, “Buddhism has a large following across the world, and India is ‘The Land of Buddha’. Our country has a rich Buddhist heritage, but still attracts only a very small percentage of Buddhist pilgrims. It is important for everybody to determine the reasons for India receiving only a fraction of Buddhists as tourists and pilgrims, and take corrective measures accordingly.”

Patel also shared that one initiative by Ministry of Tourism that had been successful in increasing Buddhist tourism numbers in India was the installation of signage in the Sinhalese language at Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh, for the convenience of the large number of tourists from Sri Lanka visiting the site. “We have signage in international languages at important Buddhist sites in the country, which have been put up at five Buddhist sites or monuments in Uttar Pradesh, including those in Sarnath, Kushinagar and Shravasti. In fact, the decision of the government to declare Kushinagar Airport in UP as an international airport will offer better connectivity to travellers, resulting in the boost of domestic and international tourism, as well as economic development of the region,” Patel said.

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