| The Mahabodhi Mahavihara in Bodhgaya. Telegraph picture |
Buddha sells more than anything in Bihar.
Christened “Buddha Calling”, the state tourism department has now concentrated on a special package for visitors from the southeast Asian countries.
Amid its overwhelming response at the World Travel Market in London — where Bihar put up its pavilion for the first time — the department has chalked out a three-night-four-day tour of the state’s Buddhist Circuit.
“The special package will cost Rs 35,000 per person. We have proposed it to international tour operators and got positive feedback also,” Awdhesh Kumar, the managing director of the Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC), said.
“This is for the first time that Bihar participated in the event, considered to be among the biggest in the world. It was a good opportunity for us to showcase tourism affairs of the state on a global stage. There were many business meetings with a lot of international tour operators and they were particularly interested in our Buddhist Circuit. Many tourists, particularly from the southeast Asian countries, want to see places like Bodhgaya, Nalanda among others. Though our initial focus was on Europe, we thought focusing on southeast Asian tourists are better to tab. The talks have been fruitful and we are hopeful of more tourist inflow,” Kumar said.
According to rough estimates, at least 1 lakh tourists come to Bodhgaya every year. State tourism minister Sunil Kumar led the state delegation to the November 5-8 London event.
“The tour operators will arrange tickets and visa for tourists. From Patna airport, we will accord all facilities to the tourists that include pick-up in sports utility vehicles, accommodation at luxury and budget hotels among others. There has been a detailed talk and exchange of contacts and plans. More meetings are also lined up. Many international travel magazines also expressed the idea to publish stories on tourism hotspots in Bihar. Our main focus was on the tour operators and subsequent talks and agreements with them. The participation has been a success,” the officer added.
Besides Bodhgaya and Nalanda, the Buddhist Circuit includes Gaya, Bhagalpur, Patna, East Champaran, Vaishali, West Champaran and Jehanabad.
Recently, at the Indian Diaspora Meet in Mauritius in which Bihar had participated, tourism minister Sunil Kumar said they had signed a memorandum of understanding with the tour operators association in the island country.
Some officials said the department had several aspects to improve upon. “Wooing tourists at foreign events is fine but infrastructure in Bihar for the same also needs to be developed. There is a dearth of good hotels and guesthouses in the state — not a good sign for tourism. The tourist guesthouses in many places are ill-maintained and shabby without proper cleanliness and hygiene. If the state government doesn’t take care of these things, the negative impact can cost too much for the tourism sector,” an official, requesting anonymity, said.