The Telegraph
Sunday , February 3 , 2013
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Blueprint to retain tourists

- Failure to keep back foreign visitors a worry

Patna, Feb. 2: Bihar gets a large number of foreign tourists every year but it doesn’t have the infrastructure to retain them for more than a day or two.

Deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi today was candid enough to admit that Bihar needed to keep the foreign visitors entertained for at least a few more days to ensure economic development of the state.

“Though the Bihar government is trying its best to provide more and more facilities to foreign tourists visiting the state, I would ask the tour operators to tell tourists more and more about the state,” Modi said while addressing the Buddhist Travel Conclave — Heritage & Tourism, organised by Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in association with the tourism department.

In the financial year 2011-2012, the state has so far received over 9 lakh foreign visitors, more than what Goa and Kerala — two major destinations in India — attracted. However, the majority of the foreign tourists in Bihar are Buddhist pilgrims. Since the state doesn’t have much to offer in terms of recreation, the tourists usually travel the circuit in a day or two and leave. Had Bihar built infrastructure to develop leisure tourism to go with its religious attractions, these visitors could have found an incentive to spend some more time in the state.

Goa, for example, has its beaches and Kerala has a mix of the sea, backwaters, hills and forests to attract visitors. Besides, both states have marketed themselves extremely well and are now brands to reckon with. In comparison, Bihar, in spite of its rich history, has failed to capitalise.

Modi said as much. He pointed out that the state lost industries and mineral reserves to Jharkhand after the bifurcation in November 2000, which hit it hard in terms of economic advancement. However, he added, Bihar has a rich cultural heritage which has a huge potential to turn around the state’s economy.

“Bihar is left with its rich cultural heritage and tourist spots which can be tapped for its development. This is the birthplace of Guru Govind Singhji, the land of Lord Mahavira, Lord Buddha attained enlightenment here. Hindus from across the country visit Gaya for salvation. Every Buddhist wants to visit Bodhgaya at least once in their lifetime,” Modi said.

The deputy chief minister said the number of foreign tourists had swelled to over nine lakh by the end of 2011-12 in comparison to 2004-05, when the number was around than 40,000. At present, around 40 international flights take off and land at Bodhgaya ferrying tourists to and from destinations such as Colombo, Singapore and Bangkok.

Rajeev Singh, director-general, ICC, said though law and order and road connectivity has been taken care of to some extent, there are areas which need government attention — lack of good and star hotels in major tourist spots, lack of wayside facilities, lack of tourism marketing, lack of brand building in countries from where tourists come.