PM Narendra Modi will inaugurate the infra project on Wednesday
By VIRENDRA SINGH RAWAT
LUCKNOW, 18 Oct 18 (The CONNECT) - Kushinagar International Airport, which will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 20, will allow Uttar Pradesh to leverage the enormous ‘Buddha Circuit’ global tourism potential in its backyard.
The Circuit, which transcends a string of places associated with the life of Lord Buddha across UP, Bihar and neighbouring Nepal, has long been waiting in the wings due to the absence of proper air connectivity and concomitant hospitality amenities.
The commissioning of the airport in the Eastern UP district will usher in accelerated tourism development in the entire catchment area, and put UP firmly on the international aviation map especially with regards to Japan, China, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
The tourist hotspots, which will directly benefit from the operation of direct international scheduled and chartered flights comprise Sarnath, Shravasti, Bodh Gaya, Lumbini, Vaishali, Rajgir, Kesariya and Sankisa.
Interestingly, another bigticket international airport is being developed in Jewar, Greater Noida (Gautam Buddha Nagar district), in the Western UP region.
According to the UP government, the inflow of international backpackers as well as outbound tourism is expected to increase by 15-20 percent in the coming years, because of the “strategic location” of the Kushinagar airport in the vicinity of Buddhist sites spanning both UP and North Bihar.
“The airport will provide direct air connectivity with South Asian countries, making it easier for tourists, especially Buddhist pilgrims, to explore the Buddhist Circuit in India. Moreover, it will boost the tourism and hospitality sectors, opening up job opportunities in plenty for the youth,” a UP government spokesperson said on Monday.
Earlier, the entry point for the India bound Buddhist tourists encompassed Kolkata, Delhi, Gaya and later Varanasi. The lack of air connectivity made it tedious and time consuming for most tourists to complete their trip in one go.
However, the Kushinagar airport will offer vista to the foreign tourists to round up their pilgrimage in much less time.
Spread over 590 acres, the Kushinagar airport boasts of world-class facilities, including a eight-storied state-of-art Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower, built at a cost of Rs 17.5 crore, and the advanced navigation system for safe landing and takeoff of flights. The airport comprises UP’s largest runway of 3,200 metres. It has a width of 45 metres.
The Buddhist Circuit in India, including sites in Eastern UP and Bihar, are a big draw for Buddhist pilgrims, particularly from East Asia and South-East-Asia.
According to the data of the Bureau of Immigration, Kushinagar received 898,000; 930,000; 970,000; and 1,096,000 tourists in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively. However, the tourist count fell drastically to 323,000 in 2020 due to Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown.
India received 339,442 tourists from China, 334,579 tourists from Malaysia, 238,903 tourists from Japan and 190,089 tourists from Singapore, which dropped to 39,586; 69,897; 48,191; and 33,747 in 2020 following pandemic.