India’s Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Civil Aviation, Dr Mahesh Sharma, visited the mountainous region of Ladakh and the eastern state of Bihar last week, to discuss plans for the development of a new Buddhist tourism circuit.
Meeting with regional authorities and MPs whose constituencies feature key Buddhist sites, Dr Sharma listened to the suggestions and concerns of the officials, with regards to the project.
Connectivity was a key factor raised, with regional authorities wanting improved air links and suggesting the development of a ‘Buddhist National Highway’ connecting sites on the circuit. Other ideas raised included the development of a single national museum containing India’s main Buddhist artefacts.
Dr Sharma vowed to create an “end-to-end” tourism circuit for India. “The aim of the Ministry of Tourism [is that] any tourist coming to visit Buddhist Circuit will land at a point and will be taken to various places during his journey of the Buddhist Circuit,” Dr Sharma said.
Buddhism is the fourth largest religion of the world and the development of the tourism circuit is key part of the Indian government’s strategy to boost its tourism industry.
The ministry estimates that a Buddhist Circuit could attract “ten lakhs” (one million) visitors “if developed properly”, generating INR60 billion (US$937 million) in tourism revenues and providing new employment opportunities in rural areas.
The Buddhist Circuit is expected to cover a series of spiritual sites, including Gorakhpur, Kushinagar, Sarnath, Sidharth Nagar, SantKabir Nagar, Shrawasti, Piprawa, Bodh Gaya, Vaishali and Nalandaamong.