The number of tourists visiting the birthplace of Gautam Buddha, Lumbini, has been increasing steadily for the last five years. In the year 2000, only 7,854 passport-holding tourists visited Lumbini. The number jumped to 49,595 in 2006 and just in the ten months of 2007, 51,437 have visited the sacred site, with the majority of arrivals from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, China, Australia, Japan, Poland, America, Britain and Germany. And with the start of the peace process, even tourists from India and Nepal are visiting Lumbini in droves.
Renowned Japanese architect Kenjo Tange had come up with a comprehensive master plan for the overall development of Lumbini way back in 1972. In 1985, the Lumbini Development Trust was established to see to the implementation of the master plan. But sadly, the master plan is yet to be completed. Tourism entrepreneurs believe that construction of an international airport at Bhirahawa alone would lead to a big spurt in the number of tourists visiting Lumbini. As one of the holiest places for Buddhists, Lumbini can be developed as a major tourist hub in the whole of Asia. Lumbini also has the potential to be one of the biggest repositories of Buddhist scriptures and an important centre for learning for Buddhist scholars from around the world. The onus is on relevant government bodies to take up this noble cause seriously, and serve both Nepal and the world.