Sri Lankan High Commissioner Prasad Kariyawasam on Thursday called for promotion of Buddhist tourism sites in Odisha and improvement of accommodation infrastructure at those places.
Prasad, who went around the Mahabodhi temple and Diamond Triangle of Odisha - Lalitgiri, Udaygiri and Ratnagiri - on Thursday before winding up his three-day visit to the State, said, “I was not aware of the existence of Lalitgiri, Udaygiri or Ratnagiri till I visited them.” He said it was more like “home-coming” for him.
Sri Lanka has around 2,50,000 tourists coming to India every year and of them, 1,80,000 visit Buddhist pilgrimage sites. Sadly, just a handful come to Odisha.
“The Buddhist sites in Odisha have great potential to draw pilgrims from Sri Lanka. While these sites have been maintained really well, there is need for setting up accommodation facilities,” he said.Kariyawasam further said considering the Buddhist tourism potential of Odisha, the Sri Lankan Government can also think of extending its budget airlines - Mihin Lanka - to Odisha.
“At present, Mihin Lanka Airlines has services to Tiruchi, New Delhi, Madurai and if tourist inflow to Odisha from Sri Lanka increases, we might consider extending the airlines to the State. We would ask private tour operators in our country to develop tour packages to Odisha.”
As ports in Odisha are developed, there could be more opportunities for Sri Lankan Government to initiate maritime trade with Odisha. “There are a lot of possibilities for Odisha and Sri Lanka to have an economically mutual beneficial relationship,” Kariyawasam said.