Buddhist tourism in Odisha is yet to catch the fancy of international visitors despite its huge potential. Though Odisha has a lot to offer as far as Buddhist heritage is concerned, the number of international tourists to the sites has not been encouraging over the years.
Little Promotion for Diamond Triangle
A pointer to this is tourist footfall to Buddhist sites last year. Though the State has 300 Buddhist sites and 405 Buddhist remains, the diamond triangle of Lalitgiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri receives maximum tourists.
In 2013, these three important Buddhist sites attracted a large number of tourists. But, when it comes to international tourists, the number was not impressive.
While Lalitgiri received 25,054 domestic tourists, only 305 foreign visitors came to the site last year. Similarly, 35,644 domestic travellers came to Ratnagiri and Udaygiri in 2013. Of them, only 381 were foreign visitors.
Few Foreigners Visit Twin Heritage Hills
On the other hand, Khandagiri and Udaygiri received 5,42,990 tourists last year. Of them, only 2,991 international tourists visited the twin heritage hills. The Dhauli Shanti Stupa had equal number of tourists from abroad.
In fact, experts are of the opinion that the State’s Buddhist potential does not figure in national and international tourism maps. Worse, tour operators, both domestic and international, continue to be ignorant about the Diamond Triangle which severely lacks in infrastructure.
So far, Buddhist sites in Odisha have been in the shadow of the popular Puri-Konark Hindu pilgrimage tourism. Even as thousands of tourists from East Asia, Southeast Asia and Nepal visit Bodh Gaya in Bihar every year, a few of them come to Odisha.
Aggressive Promotion Required: Expert Comments
“Odisha’s advantage is that it is close to Bodh Gaya and Varanasi as compared to other States with Buddhist remnants. But there is no flight connectivity from Bhubaneswar to Bodh Gaya and Varanasi which is imperative for travellers from abroad,” said MP Bezbaruah, Permanent Representative, United Nations World Tourism Organisation, who was here recently for a conference on Odisha’s tourism potential. The need of the hour is aggressive promotion of the Buddhist sites and development of hotels in the Diamond Triangle, he added.
Sources in the Tourism Department said a target of 100,000 international arrivals per year has been set and the focus is primarily on South East Asia. “Promotion of Buddhist tourism is currently one of our major focus areas,” said Director of Tourism, Manoranjan Patnaik.
Courtesy: The New Indian Express