Vinay Kumar IAS, director, Department of Tourism, Government of Bihar spoke to Joy Roy Choudhury of the dept’s major plans
What are the major tourism infrastructure development projects being implemented in the state now?
For the first time, a comprehensive Tourism Policy has been formulated and is being implemented. Tourism has been accorded the status of industry in the state, and a Tourism Protection Force shall be in existence very shortly. Very serious and planned steps have been taken to build, improve and renovate infrastructure. Selection and training of tourist guides are under way. A Tourism Enterprise Survey has been conducted with the assistance of Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. Two more studies, namely, Visitor’s Motivation Survey and Visitor’s Expenditure Surveys, are under consideration. Buddhist circuit roads are to be converted into four-lane highways with the cooperation from the Japan International Cooperation Agency. There are also plans for empanelment of travel businesses and complete overhaul of Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation (BSTDC). Major infrastructure projects include creation of meditation and convention centres in Bodhgaya and Rajgir, development of circumambulatory paths in Bodhgaya and Rajgir, development and beautification of all tourist sites, creation of new sites, and development of tourism-related roads and wayside amenities.
How are you promoting the Buddhist circuit in the state?
The Department of Tourism intends to promote, among others, the Buddhist heritage, the Jain circuit, rural tourism, the Sufi circuit, Gangetic and eco-tourism. Bihar Tourism believes that Bihar is to the Budhhists what Saudi Arabia is to the Muslims.
We organised a two-day International Buddhist Conclave in Nalanda in February this year in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. Over 150 foreign delegates, mainly drawn from south-east and east Asian countries, were invited. We attend all major tourism events in the country and the London and Berlin events abroad. BSTDC has prepared special Buddhist packages which have been a hit. We hold Rajgir and Bodhgaya Festivals in the months of December and January which have become reputed. We are initiating negotiations with major airlines of Buddhist countries to bring regular and chartered flights to Bodhgaya. The Mahaparinirvana Express, run by the IRCTC, has been another powerful vehicle to bring tourists to the state.
The state government is advocating Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) to promote tourism in the state. Tell us about the major private-sector projects under implementation/on the anvil in the state.
As I mentioned earlier, tourism enjoys the status of industry in the state and by virtue of it all major policy concessions and exemptions are available to tourism ventures of the private sector. An important example of private-public partnership is the Ganga Cruise, which is quite popular among foreign tourists. Another such partnership in the making is setting up of star-category hotels on properties of BSTDC on long-term lease basis.
How are you planning to position the state as a favourable tourism destination for both domestic and foreign tourists?
Bihar currently receives about four and a half lakh foreign tourists every year. By reinventing Bihar Tourism, improving the infrastructure and building up the brand image, we hope to give a boost to the tourism sector.
Bihar Government has been trying hard to provide employment opportunities to the educated unemployed youths of the state. Selection and training of guides is one important initiative. Promotion of various tourism enterprises in hotel and restaurant businesses will be the main focus of the government.