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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Sep 2014

Tour operators fear cancellations this season

Reena Sopam , Hindustan Times  Patna, July 07, 2013
First Published: 18:34 IST(7/7/2013) | Last Updated: 18:35 IST(7/7/2013)

The blast at the Mahabodhi temple complex is likely to negatively impact tourist arrivals to Bihar, hurting the rising tourism industry of the state.

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The blasts have come at a time when the government had planned to promote Bodh Gaya as the state USP in the international tourism market. The incident now has the entire tourism sector shocked and frustrated.

People, including travel agents, tour operators and hoteliers who depend on tourists streaming in before October, feel the serial blasts could result in large scale cancellation of bookings for Buddhist sites such as Bodh Gaya, Nalanda, Rajgir, and Vaishali and cause a heavy losses. 

The Mahabodhi temple, a 5th century temple, has been the most visited tourism destination of the state, earning maximum revenue for state tourism. In 2002 when the Unesco included it in its list of  world heritage sites, it came on the world tourism map and started drawing tourists from France, the US and the UK besides Asian countries. 

During the season of Buddhist pujas, nearly 30,000 pilgrims from Buddhist countries visit the city for the rituals held near the Bodhi tree. During the Kalchakra puja which is held every 12 years, which is presided over by spiritual leader Dalai Lama, nearly one lakh tourists come to Bodh Gaya.

Even during the off-season, 500 to 700 monks stay in the 50 monasteries in the temple city.

"The blasts have sent a wrong message. Tourism season is to start in October and this is when tourists start planning trips to Bodh Gaya and make enquiries for booking tour packages. They may now cancel trips," Sandeep Kumar, who runs Tathagat Tours and Travels near the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya, said. 

Apart from the Buddhist pilgrims, the city is visited by a large number of tourists from European countries who come here to attend meditation courses at monsatries, which offer one month packages between October and March.

"Tourists who come here to attend these meditation courses may not prefer to take any risk", he added. 

"Soon after the incident, my facebook account has been flooded with messages from people in Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Korea and Japan who want to know whether visiting Bodh Gaya would be safe? They are worried, that terrorists have not spared even religious spots", said another operator. 

Ajay Kashyap, the manager of the Bihar state tourism development corporation (BSTDC) hotels in Bodh Gaya, said there were a number of enquiries for bookings for the upcoming tourism season. "But now people may avoid coming here. The entire tourism sector will have to bear a heavy loss this time," he said.


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