Rupendehi, February 17:

Lumbini, the birth place of Lord Buddha, has seen a drastic rise in the number of visitors for the last few days, thanks to the general convention of the CPN-UML being held in Butwal.

The number of visitors — including political leaders, party cadres and foreign delegates — to Lumbini went significantly up due to the UML convention, according to the Lumbini Development Trust.

Forty-five representatives from 16 countries attended the UML convention. UML sources said, around 300,000 people took part in the inaugural session yesterday.

A Chinese delegation visited the area this morning, said Chudamani Bhattarai, a guide at the information centre of the trust. The delegation comprised Chinese Minister and Assistant Chief of Foreign Department of the Communist Party of China Leu Hong Chang, Deputy Assistant Chief of Foreign Department of CPC Kiping and Chinese envoy to Nepal, among others .

Similarly, a Sri Lankan team led by General Secretary of Communist Party of Sri Lanka and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Deu Guna Serwara visited the area today. The delegates from India, Vietnam and other countries also visited the holy place.

“Visits by VIPs have increased” said Bhattarai, adding, “Over 20,000 domestic tourists visited the place yesterday alone.” According to Madhav Nepal, chairman of Rupendehi Hotel Entrepreneurs’ Association, hotels in Bhairahawa, Butwal and Lumbini have made special arrangements for international and national delegates. “Hotel and restaurant entrepreneurs are excited to welcome the guests,” he said, adding that there were special arrangement for those wishing to visit Lumbini.

But the local customers accused the hoteliers of raising the room and food charges with a view to raking moollahs during the convention period. All hotels from Belhia of Rupandehi to Palpa are full with UML sympathisers, cadres and leaders. Many participants in the convention had to spend the night on the road yesterday due to lack of vacant hotel rooms.

Business persons and rikshaw pullers are also happy to see their business boom due to the convention. A rikshaw-puller, Khushi Tharu, said, “I earned Rs 500 yesterday. In other normal days, I used to earn a maximum of Rs 200 a day.”

“I sold goods worth Rs 10,000 yesterday,” said Unis Subedi, the owner of a grocery at Milan Chowk. He said business yesterday was 10 times more than in a normal day.

The UML has managed food for 3,000 people including delegates, volunteers and others.