Bihar makes a pitch to boost air connectivity for agro-business, tourism
The Bihar government has also suggested the Centre to explore options of introducing low-cost international flights from Gaya to South-east Asian countries like Bangkok, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, besides the Gulf.
Bihar has made a strong pitch to boost air connectivity, both within and outside the state, and reached out to various air operators, tour integrators and the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (Ficci) to give impetus to its tourism and industries, said officials aware of the development.
The state government has also suggested the Centre to explore options of introducing low-cost international flights from Gaya to South-east Asian countries like Bangkok, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, besides the Gulf.
Officials state said this could be developed on the lines of Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik - Regional Connectivity Scheme (UDAN-RCS), a regional airport development programme to upgrade underserviced air routes in which the government of India compensates in the form of viability gap funding to airlines for losses due to low fares.
The state government has also proposed to activate smaller airports in Bhagalpur, Saharsa, Birpur (Supaul district), Kishanganj and Valmikinagar (West Champaran district), famous for its tiger reserve, said officials quoted above.
It also assured the ministry of civil aviation (MoCA), during a meeting with senior officials last month, to develop heliports in various districts to strengthen interdistrict air connectivity through fixed wing aircraft and helicopter service.
In addition, the state has also proposed to develop the Purnia and the Bihta (in Patna) aerodromes, which are defence airports, while trying to boost passenger air traffic at the already operational Gaya and Darbhanga airports, said officials privy to the meeting.
“We had a meeting in Delhi last month with smaller aircraft and helicopter operators, besides some commercial airlines, to boost air connectivity at already operational airports as well as smaller, non-operational airports, which we propose to activate in Bihar,” said a senior officer of the state’s civil aviation department.
“Various air operators like IndiGo and SpiceJet as well as helicopter operators like Pawan Hans and many other private companies, which lease out their choppers during elections, have evinced interest in our proposal and assured us to explore operational options in Bihar,” he said.
“We had also invited tour integrators like EaseMy Trip, etc. to showcase the tourist potential in our state and to take their views on boosting tourism,” he said.
The state is keen to develop air connectivity on the Buddhist circuit, especially the Gaya-Rajgir-Vaishali-Patna route, to tap international tourists.
Foreign tourist footfall in Bihar had increased from 1.01 million in 2016 to 1.09 million in 2019. The state contributes to 3.77% share of foreign tourist arrival in India. Its domestic tourist figures stood at 5.63 million in 2019. The state was targeting 10 million tourists annually by the end of this year.
Bihar is also the fourth largest producer of vegetables and the eight largest of fruits in India, said officials.
The state has around 26 airstrips, of which five — Patna, Gaya, Bihta, Purnia and Darbhanga — are in operation. Commercial flights operate from Patna, Gaya and Darbhanga airports, while Bihta and Purnia are defence airbases.
The MoCA, in collaboration with the Bihar government and the Ficci, had organised a conference in Delhi for promotion of the civil aviation sector in Bihar.
The conference brought together experts from the Indian aviation sector for strengthening the state’s opportunities in airports infrastructure, heli services, agro-business and tourism, besides increasing regional connectivity, attracting investment and identifying new business.
The state has benefited immensely through regular commercial operation of air services from Darbhanga airport since 2020. Darbhanga airport has direct flight connectivity with Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Bangalore while Patna is now connected to Amritsar, Varanasi and Prayagraj under UDAN-2.0 scheme.
Over a third of world trade by value is delivered by air and about half of international tourism is facilitated by air links.