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Most visitors to Lumbini spend 30min sightseeing

Bhairahawa, May 06, 2016: The average length of stay of foreign tourists in Nepal is 12 days, but most travellers visiting Lumbini barely last 30 minutes at the holy site.

A survey entitled Visitors Survey and Observation has revealed that 72.6 percent of the visitors spent only half an hour sightseeing in Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha in southern Nepal which is being developed as an international pilgrimage.

“The length of stay of visitors in Lumbini is very poor because there are no activities to make them want to stay longer,” said Saroj Bhattarai, chief engineer of the Lumbini Development Trust.

The study was conducted among 293 tour groups by Unesco’s Japanese Funds-in-Trust Project in January 2013. It also showed that 21.8 percent of the visitors spent less than an hour, and 5.5 percent passed more than an hour in Lumbini. In 2014, Lumbini received 1.12 million visitors. The figure also includes Nepali visitors who make up a large share of the arrivals. A majority of the 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 and taking pictures.

“The government and the private sector have failed to develop packages to attract visitors and prompt them to stay longer,” said Bhattarai.

Travel trade entrepreneurs said that the government’s regular promotional programmes held in different parts of the country had also not brought productive results.

Millions of rupees are spent on promotional activities annually but without outcomes. In 2012, the government had organized Visit Lumbini Year in a bid to increase visitor numbers and length of stay, but it was not successful, they said.

“Lack of promotional materials, transport facilities, tour packages developed by Nepali operators and infrastructure are the major reasons why tourists do not spend more time and money in Lumbini,” said Chandra Prakash Shrestha, president of the Siddhartha Hotel Association. He added that if a regular ‘puja’ was organized on the 2-km-long canal at Lumbini every evening, it would encourage visitors to stay and participate in it. “Likewise, cultural programmes and drama performances could be other attractions in Lumbini to make them stay longer.” There are many places in Lumbini Sacred Garden where activities to attract tourists can be held.

Only the Lumbini Development Trust should not be blamed for failing to encourage visitors to stay longer, said Ajit Man Tamang, member secretary of the trust.

“The government, Nepal Tourism Board and the trust are equally responsible. We have not been able to develop quality road infrastructure linking all the potential tourist sites,” he said. If good infrastructure is developed, visitors can be encouraged to stay in Lumbini for at least two days, Tamang added.

Travel trade entrepreneurs said that visitors normally enter Lumbini after completing their tour of the other key Buddhist sites of Kushinagar, Sarnath and Bodhgaya in India. “Nepal has not been able to develop the Buddhist Circuit,” they said.