‘Link Bengal to Asian nations for Buddhist tourism circuit’

Kolkata, Dec 20 (IANS) Twenty-three Buddhist sites have been identified in West Bengal and the focus is to develop the state as the prime link to south and southeast Asian countries as part of the Buddhist tourism circuit, an official has said here.

According to Arvind Alok, Chairman, Buddhist Monuments Development Council (BMDC), proposals are being finalised to get the sites sponsored by the corporate sector to aid in their conservation and revival.
“Fifteen years ago, Buddhist tourists visiting the Buddhist sites in India, used to travel via Kolkata but now that has declined and they prefer to go to Delhi to travel to the Buddhist locations,” Alok said here Friday.
Speaking at the at the ‘Travel India 2014’ conference organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce here, Alok noted Bengal could serve as the connect to neighbouring states in northeast as well neighbouring countries like Nepal, Bhutan, Thailand etc due to region’s proximity and relevance.
“We have to bring that back and by developing the sites in Bengal we can connect travellers to not only to India sites but locations in neighbouring countries as well,” said Alok.
To popularise Buddhist tourism and to attract more foreign tourists, India’s tourism ministry is planning to add more states to the Buddhist circuit apart from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, according to a recent announcement.
The ministry advocated promoting bilateral tourism ties with Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and other countries with sizeable Buddhist population to exchange greater volume of tourists.
Alok said with the help of locals and archaeological experts, his organisation had identified 23 spots important to Buddhism in Bengal.
“We have identified Buddhist sites in all states, except Kerala, since the last three years. Eleven of them have been sponsored by the private sector.
“By January, next year, the concrete plans to develop the Bengal project sites will be completed,” he said.
This would entail establishing rest houses, information kiosks etc around the spots.