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World Bank Group helps India develop Buddhist Circuit

T3 News Network, Jul 21, 2014

New Delhi, India -- The World Bank Group is supporting India’s Ministry of Tourism and the state tourism departments of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on the government’s priority program to develop the Buddhist Circuit, foster tourism-led growth, expand economic opportunities and create jobs for local communities, offer better facilities to pilgrims and help increase tourist traffic five-fold.

IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, worked with a government-constituted multi-stakeholder Buddhist Circuit Steering Committee to develop a five-year roadmap to establish the Buddhist Circuit as a tourist and pilgrimage destination. Titled ‘Investing in the Buddhist Circuit’, the roadmap outlines actions needed to transform Buddhist sites and estimates about US$200 million investment required to improve infrastructure, hotels, facilities, and services of logistics companies and tour operators along the circuit, both through public and private participation.

"Having World Bank Group's support has been crucial to formulating a strategic roadmap along the Buddhist circuit. The state governments of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have pro-actively partnered this important initiative. We look forward to implementing this strategy along with stakeholders to transform the circuit for a more wholesome experience for tourists,” said Shripad Yesso Naik, India’s Minister of State for Culture and Tourism.

The Buddhist circuit is a globally important route for over 500 million Buddhists, along the life of Buddha across Nepal and India - from Lumbini, where he was born; Bodhgaya where he attained enlightenment; to Kushinagar; where Buddha achieved salvation. Statistics indicate that the trail attracts a small fraction of potential Buddhist tourists each year. The World Bank Group will eventually integrate Lumbini into the circuit as well.

Serge Devieux, Director for South Asia, IFC said, "Private sector participation is critical in this extraordinary, first-of-its-kind initiative. IFC will assist in nurturing a business environment conducive for private sector, encourage and invest in local enterprises, domestic industry, and foreign investors to build robust infrastructure, hotels, enable quality services along these sites, creating better economic opportunities and jobs.”

Having funded US$2 billion in more than 270 hotel projects across the world, IFC is an experienced hotel investor and keen to fund viable hotel projects.
The World Bank is supporting the state and local authorities in Uttar Pradesh in its pro-poor tourism development project, to improve living standards and offer increased income opportunities to low-income communities in the state’s primary Buddhist sites, including Agra and the Braj region. Bihar is also keen to adopt a similar integrated approach for developing the state’s Buddhist sites.

"It is a tremendous opportunity for World Bank Group institutions to offer inclusive solutions, bringing public and private stakeholders together to unlock India's heritage and tourism potential while addressing important development goals. Remodeling the Buddhist trail will open up new employment opportunities,” said Onno Ruhl, Country Director, World Bank India.

The Federation of Associations of Indian Tourism and Hospitality, a national body of travel and hospitality associations, contributed to developing the roadmap. “We have been actively pursuing the strategy of making India a world class Buddhist tourism destination, an initiative approved in the recent union budget. The launch of the Buddhist circuit strategy is a step in this direction,” said Sarabjit Singh, Vice Chairman, FAITH.



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