Print Edition - 2018-01-13 | MONEY
Lumbini saw more than 1.55m tourists in 2017
Jan 13, 2018-
More than 1.55 million tourists visited Lumbini in 2017, representing a 20.75 percent rise as compared to the 2016 figure.
Among them, there were 1.25 million domestic visitors who visited the birthplace of Gautam Buddha last year, according to the statistics of the Lumbini Development Trust. The statistics show that foreigner numbers stood at 301,240, including 155,444 Indian visitors.
According to the trust, there were 48,528 visitors from Sri Lanka, Thailand (27,603), Myanmar (21,531), China (15,770), S Korea (5,103), Vietnam (5,043), Bhutan (2,278), UK (1,677), Germany (1,636) and Australia (1,625). Tourists from 87 countries made the trip to Lumbini last year. Despite the growth in foreign tourist numbers, their stay in the birthplace of Buddha has not increased, travel trade entrepreneurs said. Nearly 90 percent of foreigners visting Lumbini spend less than an hour in the area before moving on.
“A majority of foreign tourists visiting Lumbini are handled by Indian tour operators. They enter Lumbini overland from across the Indian border, and spend a few minutes looking around,” said Mithun Shrestha, vice president of Siddhartha Hotel Association. “As a result, the local community and the country have not been able to reap benefits from the day-tripper.” He said that Indian visitors usually enter Nepal carrying food which means that they don’t eat at local restuarants. Foreign tourists usually stay for an average of 13 days in Nepal but most travellers visiting Lumbini barely stay for 30 minutes, according a study conducted in 2013. The survey titled “Visitors Survey and Observation” revealed that 72.6 percent of the visitors spent only half an hour sightseeing in Lumbini. The study was conducted among 293 tour groups by UNESCO’s Japanese Funds-in-Trust Project in January 2013. It also showed 21.8 percent of the visitors spent less than an hour, and 5.5 percent more than an hour in Lumbini.
In 2015, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation had approved a 10-year master plan to transform Lumbini into a world class tourism and pilgrimage hub. The blueprint entitled Greater Lumbini Tourism Promotional Plan was approved by a ministerial-level decision. However, the government failed to implement the plan.
It envisages establishing Lumbini and surrounding areas as one of the iconic products in the global tourism market.
The objective of the plan is to increase the length of stay and spending of tourists and create positive impact on the livelihood of local communities. The plan has targeted achieving 2.93 million arrivals and boosting tourism receipts four-fold to $133.67 million by 2025. Under the plan, 20,000 tourism jobs will be created.
The 10-year plan has proposed to make an investment of Rs4.95 billion. The cost excludes road and airport infrastructure. The plan, which took a year to complete, was prepared by a five-member taskforce led by tourism expert Ram Chandra Sedhai. The plan envisages increasing tourist stay by least five days.
Currently, the government is upgrading the Gautam Buddha Airport in Bhairahawa into an international airport as part of its South Asia Tourism Infrastructure Development Project. Currently, there are more than 250 big and small hotels surrounding Lumbini.
Published: 13-01-2018 08:34