As more states open up to tourists with a string of safeguards in place, the tourism ministry is lending a helping hand with its “Dekho Apna Desh” campaign and in this Govt pitching India as Buddha-land to tourists. With an eye on China and Buddhist countries in the neighbourhood, tourism minister Prahlad Patel emphasised the need to bring more Buddhist tourists to India, asking tour operators last week why India receives only a fraction of them.
The development of Buddhist tourism, done with an eye on China. China has also invested heavily in infrastructure projects to cultivate Buddhist leaders, has been part of India’s bid to leverage its soft power in the neighbourhood.
Earlier this month, PM Narendra Modi had pitched for encouraging Buddhist tourism. He emphases on the centrality of India to the Buddhist world and highlighting the need for better connectivity of India’s Buddhist sites. He had also said his government had approved the upgrade of Kushinagar airport as an international one to allow more pilgrims and tourists to visit India.
Tourism and culture minister Prahlad Patel, who had presented five volumes of the “Mongolian Kanjur”, a Buddhist canonical text in 108 volumes. It is famous as the most important religious text in Mongolia, to President Ram Nath Kovind and the Mongolian ambassador. Since it doubled down on India’s bid to print all volumes of the Buddhist canon and provide copies to all monasteries across Mongolia.
The tourism ministry has also started promotional activities related to Buddhist sites. As including highlighting that the government has installed foreign language signage, including in Chinese, at crucial Buddhist sites like Shravasti, Sarnath, Kushinagar and Sanchi, where a large number of Buddhist tourists come.
Though the coronavirus curve is still rising in the country and caution is key. Promoting economic activity — of which tourism is a crucial sector — is also critical. In Uttarakhand, tourists need to register and have a certificate confirming a negative test for coronavirus for permission to travel. Armed with this certificate, tourists will not be quarantined. Hotels will administer the RT-PCR test on guests who have not been tested and people can only leave their hotels after seven days of arrival. Destination weddings have also been permitted, but guests are only allowed to visit the place of the wedding.
The UN World Travel Organisation’s “Responsible Tourism” mantra is reflecting on India’s approach too. Last week, J&K opened up to tourists arriving by air and mandated RT-PCR tests at the airport. The UT also said travellers will have to show prior taxi and hotel bookings and will be allowed to proceed from their hotels only after they test negative for the coronavirus. While further relaxations may be in order in the coming weeks, for now, J&K has advised travellers above 65 to desist from visiting.
Goa, which restarted tourism earlier in July, has announced a fresh lockdown after a spike in cases. For now, uncertainty prevails over future lockdowns and hotels were compelled to cancel bookings over the weekend.
Rajasthan, which gets a substantial revenue from tourism, has seen a slow but steady resumption of tourist activities. Though key heritage monuments have opened and are seeing a trickle of tourists. With restricted train and air travel still, numbers have been far below normal.
Source: Times of India