Low-quality tourist infra, unawareness affecting Buddhist tourism numbers

In a document, International Chamber for Service Industry (ICSI) has suggested several measures to significantly increase Buddhist tourism footfalls in to India, highlighting the lack of brand recognition and low standard of tourism-related infrastructure as pitfalls in the process. It has provided a detailed tourist profile and source markets, and outlined marketing channels befitting the target audience. Excerpts:

A SWOT Analysis of Buddhist sites and circuits

Limited brand recognition and outreach, below par tourism infrastructure, lack of wayside amenities and absence of PPP in planning and development have been highlighted as biggest hinderances in boosting numbers. The document also suggested that destruction and pollution of Buddhist heritage sites and compromised visitor safety were threats to developing tourism.

It mentioned that there was an opportunity to attract the large Buddhist population from nearby Asian countries in to India which would aid in creating jobs and income at the grassroots.

A detailed profile

Budget pilgrims formed a large majority of the total footfalls and neighbouring Asian countries – Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Himalayan Buddhists, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Bhutan – were key source markets for the same, the document read.

Ideal product feature to tap a larger number of budget pilgrims included good condition of holy sites, basic accommodation facility (up to 2 star), and clean and well maintained wayside amenities.

Monasteries and religious bodies, Indian hoteliers and accommodation operators, and outbound pilgrimage operators in source countries were suggested as apt channels for outreach.

Top-notch hospitality, detailed experience must for high-end ‘explorers’

High-end explorers came from a handful of source countries like North America, The UK, Germany, France, China, Japan, Australia, South Africa and Brazil, the document said.   

Easy access and movement along the route, a detailed experience of Hindu and Buddhist history and heritage, and sufficient opportunities to spend on local food, crafts and shopping, besides providing a top-notch hospitality and relaxation experience were outlined as essential product features to tap the lucrative segment.

Asian countries like Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Myanmar and Indonesia were key source countries for comfort pilgrims, it further outlined. The ICSI document suggested incorporating elements of high quality guiding and interpretation, ease of access and movement, convenient and quality services, among others, as critical to tapping this segment.

Interestingly, much of the domestic footfalls was driven by budget explorers, including travellers from the UK, Germany, France, Australia and Southeast Asia. To tap this segment, the document advocated interesting culinary and culture experience and putting in place a reliable public transport infrastructure, among others, as essential offerings.

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