Buddhist Tourism – ‘Essential Leisure’
Industry is very eagerly looking forward to the inbound movement opening up soon. It is now gearing up and is in the phase of getting ‘Tourism Ready’. We do realise that the opening up of borders will not just magically flood us with the influx but the traffic will only trickle into India in phases. I believe that the Buddhist countries in Asia will be the first ones to pour-in and primarily, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are two states that will benefit the most as they get the most from Buddhist Asian countries. I am personally seeing a few reasons that make me optimistic about this market opening up earlier. The travel distance is short and flights are economical from these countries into India and I believe religious travel will be the first to restart as it is a way of life, which has been waiting since, if not earlier, at least the beginning of 2020, more than one year now. Possibly people want to be blessed in the land of Lord Buddha after a devastating last year, so I call it, an ‘Essential Leisure’. Another reason is that after the vaccination international leisure travellers will first like to test waters before the plunge, to regain confidence for more travel in future and what better way could be than to restart with a short-haul holiday which would be within the continent.
As this has been, and possibly for another six months or so it will still be, a breathing period for the industry and the destinations, in my opinion, state Governments should use this time positively to revamp the infrastructure and refocus their strategies to iron-out wrinkles in these destinations by consulting and understanding from the stake holders. This is very important, so that when the time comes, we are actually ‘Tourism Ready’. We are all talking about ‘Revenge Tourism’ which is expecting a huge influx in the times to come, but then, there would also be a stiff ‘Destination Competition’ whereby destinations will in stiff competition with each other, to attract a larger share of tourists. Keeping this is mind, Buddhist destinations in the state of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar have many ‘addressable issues’ and if these are addressed in a time-bound manner, Buddhist destinations can become much more welcoming and attractive than they ever were. Major issues in these areas are related to infrastructure, connectivity and administration, which can be strategically identified through the stake holders and addressed by the central and the state governments by handholding each other and being ‘Tourism Ready’.