Buddha’s birthplace brings ‘em in by 17pc more


Last year, Lumbini received 102,059 visitors compared to 82,443 in 2009
POST REPORT

KATHMANDU, APR 23 –

Tourist arrivals to the Buddha’s birthplace Lumbini through Bhairahawa increased 17 percent in the first three months of 2011.

According to the Department of Immigration, a total of 42,422 visitors entered Nepal through Bhairahawa compared to 36,523 in the same period last year.

The southern border point of Bhairahawa is the gateway to Lumbini. The figure excludes overland Indian visitors as they are not counted in the country’s tourism data. Last year, Lumbini received 102,059 visitors compared to 82,443 in 2009.

Tourism entrepreneurs attribute this growth to development of tourism infrastructure in Lumbini and the return of peace in Nepal. There has been a resurgence in pilgrim arrivals from predominantly Buddhist countries like Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and South Korea after suffering a setback during the Maoist conflict and political instability.

“Visitor stay in Lumbini has also slightly increased with more infrastructure being developed in the area,” said Bikrum Pandey, managing director of Himalaya Expeditions which also runs Buddhist Circuits.com. According to him, the Buddhist circuit is a package that begins from Lumbini and passes through Kapilvastu, Shravasti, Kushinagar, Sarnath, Bodhgaya, Vaishali, Rajgir, Nalanda and Patna before returning to Lumbini.

“It is estimated that business

for Buddhist Circuits was about 300,000 tourists.” Pandey added

that the length of stay was nine to 10 days and daily spending amounted

to US$ 150-250.

“Pilgrims are high-spending customers,” said Pandey. He added that as India held a 90 percent share of the pilgrim market, it was hard to compete with the established market.

“To attract more visitors, we are launching the ‘Following footsteps of Lord Buddha’ package which seeks to draw tourists to the birthplace first.” The travel trade and the government too need to work hard for the purpose, Pandey added.

The trend of building hotels with modern facilities has intensified in Lumbini encouraged by an increase in arrivals. The Lumbini Hotel Kasai was constructed by a Japanese investor while Sri Lankan Pilgrim Rest was built with the Sri Lankan government’s investment. Likewise, the Hokke Hotel, established by the Hokke Club of Japan, is managed by an Indian private company. Domestic investors have built the Lumbini Bamboo Resort Pali, Buddha Maya and the Crystal.

The government has planned to develop Bhairahawa airport as a regional international airport in a bid to exploit the pilgrimage tourism potential. “Buddha Air will also be launching flights on the Bhairahawa-Kolkata sector which will help to bring visitors directly to Lumbini,” Pandey said.

Nepal has been trying to develop Lumbini as an international centre for pilgrimage and tourism. Recently, an international conservation team has begun work on restoring three endangered monuments at the Buddha’s birthplace. The restoration campaign is funded by the government of Japan and coordinated by the UNESCO office in Kathmandu.

Basudev Kafle, an official at the Department of Immigration, said that improved facilities in the area have also boosted arrivals during the last two years. “Lumbini can become one of the major tourist destinations if the government gives it greater priority.”

According to the Lumbini Development Trust, Lumbini hosted 82,443 tourists in 2009, 82,075 in 2008 and 71,053 in 2007.

Arrival in Lumbini

(Jan-March)

Country 2010 2011

Sri Lanka 13,945 16,283

Thailand 9,143 14,133

South Korea 2,111 2,744

Others 11,324 9,262

Posted on: 2011-04-23 09:10

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One Response

  1. Excellent read, I just passed this onto a colleague who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch because I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch! “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” by Carl W. Buechner.

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