For the first time since the inception by Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, the biennial International Buddhist Conclave, a forum to promote India’s Buddhist heritage in the international arena, will travel out of Sarnath in UP to Aurangabad in Maharashtra. The 2018 edition of the international conclave will be held in Aurangabad between August 22 and 25 as a first step to promote “secondary destinations” associated with the Buddhist heritage in India. The idea is to highlight and promote Ajanta and Ellora as a destination in the global Buddhist tourism map.
Speaking at a Promotion Workshop on Ajanta-Ellora organised jointly by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, and Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) in Delhi, Suman Billa, Joint Secretary – Tourism, Government of India said that it is a step to showcase the secondary sites associated with Buddhist heritage and help bring international buyers and local sellers together on a platform.
Billa said that despite large footprint of Buddhist sites spread across the length and breadth of the country, India has been able to attract only 0.005% of global Buddhist travel. Even a small enhancement in the current figures could bring windfall of opportunities for India and bring transformational changes to the local economies of places around Buddhist destinations. Talking specifically on Japanese inbound to India, Billa said that it is important India work on infrastructure and facilities such that Japanese tourists feel comfortable at the destination. He said that the Joint Working Group on Tourism between India and Japan has resolved to double the two way tourist traffic by 2020. He also appreciated the “significant work” done by JICA in creating world class infrastructure in Ajanta and Ellora in consonance with the architectural heritage of the place.
He said that Ajanta and Ellora is one of the destinations selected under the Iconic Destination Project of the Ministry of Tourism and plans are afoot to equip these destinations with world class facilities. He said that discussions are on with the Ministry of Highways to develop 6-lane highway connecting Aurangabad airport to these cave sites as well as augment air connectivity with various other tourists’ sites in the country. The Tourism Ministry will also explore incentive scheme for underwriting seats of airlines coming forward to operate flights to Aurangabad with Ministry of Commerce, he said.