Om Prakash, Tourism Minister, Uttar Pradesh
Akanksha Goel September-October 2016
Uttar Pradesh cashing on Buddhist Circuit
As Uttar Pradesh witnesses a tourist influx, mainly for its religious sites, the tourism department is leaving no stone unturned in earning the kudos of national as well as international tourists.
What draws the Buddhist tourists to Sarnath?
Sarnath attracts a huge number of visitors as Lord Gautam Buddha delivered his first sermon here. Uttar Pradesh is blessed with so many destinations related to his life and Sarnath is one of them. It holds a very important place in Buddhism.
Uttar Pradesh is a culturally diverse state; which sites receive tourists in great numbers?
Culturally, Uttar Pradesh is very rich. The main destinations for cultural tourism are Agra, Lucknow and Varanasi which form the heritage arc also.
Home to some of the holiest places for Buddhists, what are the efforts put into maintaining the sanctity of the place?
The Department of Tourism, Government of Uttar Pradesh is taking major steps to maintain the dignity and sanctity of all the Buddhist places.
Has tourism increased? What are the strategies adopted to promote it internationally?
Definitely. In comparison to last year’s statistics, there is an increase of 11.98 pc in terms of international and domestic tourist arrivals in Uttar Pradesh. The department has revamped its various tourism packages adding a whiff of freshness to each circuit in order to woo international travellers.
Major advertising campaigns, international Buddhist Conclave and various other travel marts are organised annually.
Are there any treasured places that are a must visit but are not visited by many? What are the efforts made by the government to promote those destinations?
Sarnath has a beautifully serene place – Garden of Spiritual Wisdom- which is very frequently visited by tourists, but can provide them with the much-needed solace and peace of mind. Many other lesser known destinations like Sankisa and Kaushambhi also need to be promoted more.
To capitalise on the strengths of the new and unexplored destinations, Uttar Pradesh Tourism has undertaken a major promotion and publicity blitz. The Government is planning an international airport at Kushinagar to make the itinerary more attractive for the international Buddhist travellers.
What are the difficulties faced by tourists visiting the state (for example, communication, safety)? How do you plan to solve them?
As far as connectivity is concerned, Uttar Pradesh is growing in terms of highways and expressways. All the major destinations are connected by well maintained roads and state highways. To make our tourists feel safe, Uttar Pradesh Tourism has deployed specially trained Tourist Police at all major tourist destinations. A women helpline number has also been initiated by the UP government.
What is the ratio of International vs Indian tourists visiting the state?
Approximately, 3.1 million international tourists travelled to Uttar Pradesh in 2015, compared to 204.8 million domestic tourists.