IndiaThe country eyes Japan as a key source market; both countries ‘aim to triple’ tourist arrivals in next five years.

India ramps up promotion of ‘Buddhist tourism’ to attract Japanese

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India Buddhist Tourism
The Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, India Photo Credit: saiko3p/Getty Images
India Buddhist Tourism

“We are receiving a minuscule number of Buddhist tourists...just 0.005% of the total Buddhist population in the world despite being a key pilgrimage destination for millions of practicing Buddhists around the world,” Suman Billa, the Indian ministry of tourism's joint secretary, recently told journalists in New Delhi. 

India has embarked on efforts to promote ‘Buddhist tourism’ in a bid to attract travellers from countries with sizeable Buddhist populations such as Japan. This comes amid the overall push for greater bilateral travel and tourism between India and Japan.

The country is organising an international Buddhist conclave every alternate year as well as developing a Buddhist Circuit connecting key places associated with the Buddhist heritage, government officials say. 

“We are receiving a minuscule number of Buddhist tourists...just 0.005% of the total Buddhist population in the world despite being a key pilgrimage destination for millions of practicing Buddhists around the world,” Suman Billa, the Indian ministry of tourism's joint secretary, recently told journalists in New Delhi. 

"The idea is, even if we are able to remove one zero and make it 0.05%, that'll still bring in billions of dollars into our tourism economy,” Billa explained.

India has sanctioned five projects worth Rs3.61 billion (US$72.5 million) and has worked with International Finance Corp. of the World Bank group and other agencies to ramp up infrastructure around the Buddhist Circuit, reported The Jakarta Post. 

Meanwhile, India and Japan aim to triple the number of Indian and Japanese tourists in the next five years. According to the latest tourism ministry report, the number of Japanese tourist arrivals in India in 2016 totalled 208,847, compared with only 29,032 in 1981.

“The majority of these Japanese visiting India are business tourists accounting over 60%, while the rest accounts for leisure tourism” such as trips to Buddhist sites in India, a senior tourism ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

According to the official, popular Buddhist sites among Japanese and other foreign tourists include Bodhgaya, Nalanda, Rajgir, Kushinagar, Sarnath, Sanchi, Ajanta Caves, Dhauli and Dharamshala.


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