Union Tourism Minister Shri Subodh Kant Sahai has said that tourist from countries having sizable Buddhist population such as Thailand and Malaysia would be provided the facility of Visa on Arrival ( VOA). Inaugurating a two day International Buddhist Conclave at Varanasi today, he said his Ministry had also decided to develop a Ghat in the temple town Varanasi in the name of Lord Buddha on the bank of river Ganga. He said his Ministry had adopted a Keep India Clean Mission to keep clean the cities particularly tourist places across the country to attract maximum tourists. The Minister appealed to the State Governments to take initiatives for the success this Mission. He assured full cooperation of his Ministry to the state Government local administration to keep the holy city of Varanasi clean.
Shri Sahai said India being the land of origin of Buddhism, is the main attraction for the Buddhist tourists from across the globe. He said his Ministry is drawing up plans to to attract more tourists from Buddhist countries by providing them special facilities. Buddhism being a world religion now, its sites have a great attraction for tourists’ world over. The Ministry of Tourism is continuing with its efforts in identifying more and more Buddhist Circuits and developing them in holistic and integrated manner.
Shri Sahai announced that his Ministry has identified three circuits to be developed as part of Buddhist Circuits during the 12th Five Year Plan.they are:Circuit 1: The Dharmayatra or the Sacred Circuit - This will be a 5 to 7 days circuit and will include visits to Gaya (Bodhgaya), Varanasi (Sarnath), Kushinagar, Piparva ( Kapilvastu) with a day trip to Lumbini in Nepal.Circuit 2: Extended Dharmayatra or Extended Sacred Circuit or Retracing Buddha’s Footsteps - This will be a 10 to 15 days circuit and will include visit to Bodhgaya (Nalanda, Rajgir, Barabar caves, Pragbodhi Hill, Gaya), Patna (Vaishali, Lauriya Nandangarh, Lauriya Ariraj, Kesariya, Patna Museum), Varanasi(Sarnath), Kushinagar, Piparva (Kapilvastu, Shravasti, Saniska) with a day trip to Lumbini in Nepal.Circuit 3: Buddhist Heritage Trails State Circuits- Jammu and Kashmir - Ladakh, Srinagar and Jammu; Himachal Pradesh - Dharamshala, Spiti, Kinnaur and Lahaul. Shri Sahai expressed the hope that deliberations at the conclave would help us to carry on this process of identifying and developing more Buddhist circuits.
The Tourism Minister said that tourism today is being looked upon as a driver of economic growth. India too has seen rapid development in tourism over the last few years apart from promoting our rich heritage and culture and its diversity. He said during 12th Five Year Plan period we have identified around 35 major integrated circuits and destinations having potential to attract a large number of tourists. It is proposed to develop around 20 tourism parks on the lines of Sentosa Islands in Singapore
The conclave is being held with a view to showcasing and projecting the Buddhist Heritage of India. The delegates at the conclave include the International Buddhist scholars, tour operators and media both domestic and international who actively promote Buddhist Tourism. About 130 Overseas guests including Buddhist Scholars/Tour Operators and Media representatives (mainstream media and travel journalists) from 30 countries including Australia,Belgium,Bhutan,Cambodia,Canada,China,France,Holland,Hungary,Indonesia,Italy,Japan,laos,Malaysia,Myanmar,New Zealand, Phillipines, Republic of Korea, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, USA and Vietnam are attending the conclave. More than one hundred Indian Tour Operators, Scholars, Media personnel from 16 States/UTs including Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Bihar are also attending the Conclave.
The Conclave is an important tourism marketing event designed to bring together international buyers from around the world particularly from the popular Buddhist destinations like Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, China etc. together, to interact, promote and sell, with the objective of increasing tourist arrivals to India and specifically to the Buddhist sites in different states.
The Conclave sessions include Technical sessions on Buddhism for scholars, and travel and Tourism sessions for the media and Tour operators. The delegates will also be taken for site visits to Bodh Gaya and Nalanda. The International Buddhist Conclave in India is being organized after a period of two years. The last Conclave was organized in Nalanda in February 2010.