MoT targets to upgrade Sarnath for inbound Buddhist travellers by Jan 2019; Gadkari assures four-lane roads
Akansha Pandey | New Delhi
“Eyeing to dramatically increase the numbers,” in the words of KJ Alphons, Minister of State for Tourism, Government of India, the Ministry of Tourism (MoT) will be spending Rs. 70 crore, utilising the funds of Swadesh Darshan scheme, to upgrade Sarnath in the next six months i.e. by January 2019, subject to the approvals by the Uttar Pradesh government. In this first phase of development, emphasis will be given on enhancing facilities for Buddhist travellers in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
The Tourism Minister had a detailed discussion with Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways and the latter has assured of connecting all relevant Buddhist destinations in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar with a four-lane good road. “There are 490 million Buddhists around the globe who are high spenders. Thus, we want the Buddhist circuit to be the biggest in the country, to help scale inbound numbers at a staggering rate,” said Alphons.
Today, MoT officials also discussed enhancing the facilities in Sarnath with the World Bank team. In the next six months, the nodal body has vouched to create it into a world-class destination for inbound travellers, taking assistance from the detailed expertise of the World Bank.
Alphons elaborated MoT’s plans saying that there are two stupas – Dhamekh and Chaukhandi in Sarnath. All the buses will be halted at the first stupa. The parking facility is being identified for the same. Electric vehicles will take the visitors to the first stupa site. An amenity centre will be established near the pickup parking area there. The half-constructed auditorium there will also be completed soon.
Two wayside amenities have been sanctioned on the Varanasi-Shravasti 380 km stretch. The construction has started off and it will be up and running in the next three to four months, emphasised Rashmi Verma, Union Secretary Tourism. She also added that better air connectivity will be facilitated in cooperation with the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) and Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
Since today morning, the MoT officials have also been meeting Ambassadors of 13 countries – Argentina, Austria, Bhutan, Brazil, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Malaysia, Russia and New Zealand. The Minister shared that they deliberated on growing bilateral ties to boost inbound tourism and briefing the Ambassadors to spread the good word. “Our main objective of meeting the Ambassadors was to tell them that India is the place to be for a transformational experience,” he stated.
Upcoming Incredible India Roadshows
The next leg of Incredible India roadshow will be organised in China in the last week of August (for the first time) led by the Tourism Minister himself. Secretary Tourism will lead the roadshows in Russia and the Nordic countries. From the past six months, the Incredible India roadshow has travelled from New York to Houston, Chicago and St. Louis along with industry stakeholders.
“China is a significant inbound source market for India due to its proximity and huge outbound travel potential of 144 million (in 2017) travellers. India is currently seeing a mere 2.5 lakh figure from the strategic market. A new office has been opened in Beijing supported by a public relations agency, though officials are yet to be appointed. Russia too is an important tourism partner which is why a new office is decided for Moscow by November again assisted by a public relations agency. Latin America has been hugely unexplored by the Indian market, thus it is also on the cards,” the Minister said.
Videos to be in 8 more Foreign Languages
Under Incredible India 2.0, new videos have already been launched on the YouTube channel on themes such as Yoga, Ayurveda, Wildlife, Luxury and Cuisine. Now, all these videos targeting varied traveller segments will be done in eight more languages i.e. French, German, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean apart from the already existing in English. These videos will be released on online and digital mediums in local languages in August to further leverage the target markets.
We are sure to emerge as one of the biggest tourism economies soon enough, contributing much larger to the GDP and employment generation, stated Alphons.
Until now, these online commercials in English woven in a story format have attracted overwhelming response with the “Yogi of the Racetrack” video getting 25 million views and the 7 million to the wildlife promotional video.
The Year that was & Future Growth Targets
MoT eyes doubling the inbound arrivals to 20 million in the next three years i.e. by 2021 and soar the foreign exchange earnings to $55 billion.
In the last calendar year, over 10 million inbound travellers visited India growing at 15.6% over 2016. They generated $27 billion of foreign exchange, a surge of 20.8% over the previous year. MoT eyes doubling these inbound arrivals to 20 million in the next three years i.e. by end of 2020 and increase the foreign exchange earnings to $55 billion. Five years from now i.e. 2022, MoT expects to generate 100 million foreign exchange reserve from foreign arrivals.
“As per 2017 statistics, the tourism sector contributed 7% to the nation’s GDP and 14% to India’s employment generation. In the last four years, the tourism sector created 14.62 million jobs for every section of the society. The multiplier effect of the travel and tourism industry is biggest for every rupee spent,” highlighted the Tourism Minister adding, “It’s neither about coming and seeing India nor experiencing it. The new buzzword is transformational. You come to India and you’ll never be the same again but an Incredible version of yourself.”