The Buddhist circuit in UP is all set to get a major boost as airline companies from Sri Lanka,Nepal,China and Thailand are keen to start their services from Varanasi.
Officials said while plans for air services to Kathmandu and Colombo have been finalised,a Chinese airline has also expressed its eagerness to operate flights on Varanasi-Beijing circuit from October. A Chinese delegation met state officials at LBS Babatpur airport on Friday.
The key destination in the Buddhist circuit,Varanasi witnesses one of the highest footfalls in UP as tourists from countries like Japan,China,Sri Lanka,Nepal,Thailand and Indonesia flock to this town situated in the banks of the Ganga. From here,the tourists move to other places in the circuit like Sarnath,Kushinagar,Shravasti,Kaushambi and Farukkhabad. The need for having air connectivity between these countries was being discussed from a long time as the nearest airport for tourists from these countries is New Delhi.
After flights to Sharjah and Abu Dhabi in Middle East,which primarily cater to the Haj pilgrims,talks were on for opening air routes to other destinations as well. While the Buddha airlines of Nepal will start operating its commercial flights between Kathmandu and Varanasi from June,the Mihinlankan airlines of Sri Lanka will also start its flights between Varanasi and Colombo,thrice a week,from August.
So far,tourists came to Delhi and then,travelled by train or road to Varanasi. But with these direct flights,we are hopeful that the Buddhist tourists will not just save time,there would be an increase in the footfall, said Airport Manager D C Mishra.
The state government is also extending the runway at the airport,while work for renovating the terminal has been completed.
We have one of the best terminals in the non-capital category in the country,which matches the standards of any small international airport. We are also extending out runway to allow more and more flights, added Mishra.
Speaking about the meeting with Chinese delegation,Mishra said: The Chinese have shown their eagerness to operate flights on Varanasi-Beijing route on alternative days and the frequency will be increased to daily two flights in peak season. We have already finalised the details of the project and the route is expected to become operational by October. Mishra added that they have also got proposals for allowing operations between Varanasi and Tokyo in Japan. But we have been informed that due to Tsunamis impact,the project might be delayed. However,we are ready for these new international routes.