India promotes Buddhist tourism to woo Japanese tourists

With an aim to attract more tourists from Buddhist countries like that of Japan, the Indian Tourism Ministry is planning to promote Buddhist tourism.

The country is organizing international Buddhist conclave every other year and is also aggressively developing Buddhist Circuit, which connects key places associated with the religion’s heritage.


“We are receiving a minuscule number of Buddhist tourists – just 0.005 per cent of the total Buddhist population in the world despite being a key pilgrimage destination for millions of practicing Buddhists around the world,” said Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism. “The idea is, even if we are able to remove one zero and make it 0.05 percent, that’ll still bring in billions of dollars into our tourism economy,” he added.

The Central ministry has sanctioned five projects worth Rs 3.61 billion (about $5.5 million) and has also worked with International Finance Corp. of the World Bank group and other agencies to ramp up infrastructure around the Buddhist Circuit.

“As both India and Japan are trying to push bilateral travel and tourism with the aim of tripling Indian and Japanese tourists in the next five years, the promotion of Buddhist tourism is one of various initiatives to draw more Japanese to India,” Billa said.

As part of its plan, the South Asian nation’s tourism office in Tokyo sponsored the visits of 10 Japanese tour operators, opinion leaders and journalists for the biennial International Buddhist Conclave in 2014 and invited six Japanese travel experts to attend the conclave again in 2016.

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