Following Sunday's serial blasts, business has taken a hit in the Buddhist temple town with cancellation of bookings by many foreign tourist groups, which were scheduled to visit Bodh Gaya in the near future.
Many hotels, including Mahamaya, Royal Residency, Taj Durbar, Imperial, Nico Lotus, Heritage, Sujata, RK International, had reported cancellation of small groups, numbering 15-25 tourists per group. These cancellations precedes the tourist season, which kicks-off in October.
General secretary of the Bodh Gaya Hotel Association, Sudama Kumar, said, “Nearly 20% tourist bookings till October have been cancelled. We are yet to assess the impact of the blast on the tourist season and are keeping our fingers crossed."
Sanjay Singh, general secretary of the Hotel Association, Bodh Gaya, said nearly 50% group bookings this month had already been cancelled. “Many foreign tourists have adopted a wait-and-watch policy and are making enquiries to find out how is the situation. Bookings from Japan and the two Korean countries have also been cancelled, affecting our business adversely,” he added.
There are around 125 hotels and guest houses besides 56 monasteries in Bodh Gaya, of which 42 are registered.
“This is a lean season and less than 5% tourists are here. The blast has further crippled business prospects,” said north India convenor of the Coordination Committee of All India Buddhist Organisation, Dr Arvind Kumar Sinha from Patna.
Dr Sinha further said, monasteries on an average received donations up to Rs. 4-5 crore annually and feared that the quantum of donation may also be affected.
Temple priest Sanjay Mishra said that he, too, was receiving many enquiries from abroad, asking him about the temple condition and safety of pilgrims. “Many foreign tourists want to know directly from us if it is safe to come,” he added.
However, Mihir Singh, tourism secretary, government of Bihar, said that the incident may only have a ‘minor effect’ on state tourism.
“It may have a short-term impact but we do not see any adverse long-term fallout of the blasts. The blasts have just chipped a staircase and marginally damaged a votive Buddha stupa (measuring around 2 feet),” he added.
Asked if the enhanced security cover the government was contemplating to put in place would affect tourism, Singh said, “The state government’s enhanced security parameters will only enhance tourism because the tourists will now feel more secure. Ever since a similar three-layer security cover was put in place at the Taj Mahal, the tourist flow increased. All major heritage sites are well protected and no tourist ever complains,” he added.
Around 2.14 lakh tourists visit Bihar annually of which foreign tourist footfall in Bodh Gaya was 10 lakh (approx), according to the secretary of the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee, N Dorjee.