Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)-Bangladesh with over 500 ancient Buddhist relics and archaeological sites is exploring a ‘Road Map’ to develop the country’s Buddhist tourism spots aiming to take a share of 1.3mn annual Buddhist travellers visiting India, Bhutan and Nepal.
Despite having historic Buddhist sites like Paharpur, Mahasthangath and Moinamoti, Bangladesh is getting a tiny portion of the Buddhist tourist circuit in the subcontinent, director of tour operators association of Bangladesh (TOAB) Masud Hossain told newsmen in Dhaka last Sunday, reports the Gulf Times.
According to the Indian Bureau of Statistics about 2,25,000 foreign tourists visited Gaya in 2014 while over 2,00,000 visited Bodhgaya, 1,25,000 went to Nalanda and 1,25,000 to Lumbini, the birth place of Buddha.
Masud Hossain said, only 3,241 foreign tourists have visited three ancient Buddhist sites — Paharpur, Mahasthangath and Moinamoti.
Realizing the huge potential of Buddhists tourism, the Bangladesh government is going to organise a two-day international conference on the Buddhist Circuit with participation of 13 Buddhist countries in the capital on October 27-28 to prepare a road map.
“The Buddhist archaeological sites are our ready tourist products. We need an action-oriented road map to build infrastructure and a global standard planning to attract Buddhist tourists,” chief executive officer (CEO) of Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) Akhtaruzzaman Khan Kabir said.
He said the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) is giving technical support to the Bangladesh government by providing its world renowned Buddhist tourism experts to organise the conference.
The Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry in collaboration with the UNWTO will organise the conference.
UNWTO secretary general Taleb Rifai along with officials from China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bhutan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka are expected to participate.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the conference which is expected to be attended by a number of tourism ministers from participating countries.
Kabir said the major objective of the conference is to prepare a road map for planning, development and marketing of sustainable and inclusive cross-border Buddhist tourism circuits and routes in South Asia after consultation among globally reputed Buddhist tourism experts and local tourism stakeholders.
The conference will help build a platform of Buddhists by networking tourism players in regional countries especially in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka.
The UNWTO nominated its advisor Ludwig G Rieder, a renowned expert on Buddhist tourism as the moderator for the conference who will also present a major paper on flourishing Buddhist tourism in Bangladesh.
“He has already visited different Buddhist attractions of Bangladesh to get himself prepared for the main paper of the conference that will provide guidelines to make the road map,” Kabir said.
In his marketing research, Masud Hossain projected that $6bn in revenue in a year is possible, if 1,50,000 foreign tourists come to visit Buddhist heritage sites annually.