Greater tourist numbers fetch little for Lumbini

Arun Gyanwali

Bhairahawa, January 14

Tourist inflow into Lumbini has increased by three folds, though security and the peace condition in the country continues to be doubtful.

According to statistics provided by the Lumbini Development Fund, Centre for Communication, 28,453 tourists visited Lumbini in 2003 BS, excluding Indian and internal tourists.

In 2002, 9,036 tourists visited Lumbini. According to the centre, 10,135 visited the district in 2001. In 2003, 8,993 tourists from Sri Lanka visited Lumbini, 5,134 from Thailand, 2,903 from North Korea, and 2,264 from Japan. Tourists from 64 countries visited the place in 2003.

Gyanin Rai, information executive, said that proper promotion and reconstruction of Mayadevi Temple have increased the flow of tourists. However, the increase in tourist numbers in Lumbini has not done anything to change the deserted look that Bhairahawa, Butwal and Lumbini habitually wear. Some tourism entrepreneurs said that tourists come and tour the area during the day but go to India for the night due to rising Maoist violence in the area.

Deepak Chettri, chairman of Hotel Association of Siddharthanagar, said that the increase in tourist numbers has not boosted tourism business in the area. He said, "Maoist violence in the district has made tourism business suffer. The Royal family massacre, hijack of the Indian Airliner, Hrithik Roshan issue, has made matters worse. Moreover, Maoists ask for donations from tourists."

Chairman Chettri said that the time to rejoice has not yet come. He said, "Tourist come for the day and go back to India for the night. Tourists have increased, but hotels and restaurants continue to stay deserted." According to statistics from Immigration Office of Belahia (Sunauli), there has been a 50 per cent increase in tourists from land. In 2003, 39,869 tourists entered Nepal via Belahia Transit Point. Among them, 10,633 were from Sri Lanka. In 2002, 46,147 tourists entered the country from Belahia Transit Point, 35,956 in 2001, and 26,438 in 2002.