Bihar, it seems, has fallen off the tourist map despite the state offering a mix of monuments, rare archaeological sites and historic places.
According to the recent Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) report, the number of foreign tourists visiting Bihar in the last few years has nosedived from great heights — knocking it out of the list of top 10 states foreign tourists fly to.
While 10.97 lakh tourists visited the state in 2012-2013, the count came down to 6.7 lakh, turning Bihar into a tourism midget.
The tourism graph has slipped despite the state having what it takes to be a crowd-puller: Unesco heritage site Mahabodhi temple, ruins of top two universities of a bygone era, arguably the world's tallest Buddhist stupa at Kesaria, a rare Neolithic site and birthplaces of religious saints among others.
But what caused the fall?
Experts say, one reason is that the state has failed at hardsell in the international tourism market.
A tourism official said the Air India had offered the state an opportunity to screen audiovisuals related to its tourist spots in some of its international flights. But the audiovisuals were rejected, he said.
For now, the travellers are mostly from Buddhist countries coming here to worship at the sites related to Lord Buddha. Only the Buddhist circuit is functional and the rest are yet to get off the starting blocks.
There are at least six circuits, but the government hasn’t cared to shine the spotlight on them.
Bihar has a Gandhi circuit comprising sites related to Gandhiji. “But nobody knows about the Gandhi circuit," said Gandhian Razi Ahmad, the director of Gandhi sangrahalaya in Patna.
Apart from sex crimes that dent the state’s image, there are law-and-order problems, and appalling handling of the foreign clients, who spread the stories back home.
Its destinations offer tacky hotels, bad roads and poor transport system.
Many destinations in the Buddhist circuit, like Rajgir, Nalanda and Kesaria do not have a government hotel.
Subodh Jain, a Rotarian, said though a large number of Jain pilgrims from Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra come to Bihar, Jain sites are neglected and none has a government hotel.
"And those that exist at other destinations are in a bad shape. Even the condition of Kautilya Vihar is very poor," said former tourism minister Sunil Kumar Pintu.
"Till a few years ago, the state was ranked sixth among the states with the highest flow of foreign travelers. Now it no longer exists in this list." Pintu said.
Many plans to boost the tourist flow into the state capital Patna had died down after the white heat.
The buggy ride in the city and water sports at Gandhi Ghat and Mahendru Ghat on the banks of Ganga River no longer function.
The state has a long list of promises that never took shape.
The double-decker bus brought to offer fun ride didn’t see the road, and the promise of a ropeway for Rajgir is still in files. Plans to launch air taxis and airstrips failed to take off. Package tours to Rajgir, Nalanda and Vaishali were dropped because of the poor response.
And the nodal agency to run and maintain the hotels and transport network is sick.
The Bihar State Tourism Development Corporation is running in loss. “Employees have not been paid salaries for the last many months and are preparing to go on strike,” said Pintu.