Tourism in Lumbini plunges after floodsTourism in Bhairahawa and Lumbini has plunged following the August 11 floods that swept across the southern plains and border regions in India.
Tourism in Bhairahawa and Lumbini has plunged following the August 11 floods that swept across the southern plains and border regions in India.
The Gorakhpur-Sunauli highway, a key overland entry point into Nepal from India, was inundated, blocking all motor traffic.
Hoteliers said tourists had been cancelling advance bookings en masse during a prime season for Buddhist pilgrimage. Almost all hotels had been sold out before the deluge.
Travel trade entrepreneurs said floodwaters had covered the Indian town of Pipiganj in Gorakhpur district in Uttar Pradesh state, crippling transportation and preventing travellers from going to Nepal. The town lies on the 75-km Gorakhpur-Sunauli highway.
Sunauli is the busiest among eight key entry points on the Nepal-India border for tourists visiting Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha.
“Tourism business has been affected badly by the floods in India,” said Chandra Prakash Shrestha, president of the Siddhartha Hotel Association. “Tourists coming to Nepal are forced to return from Gorakhpur.” He added that resumption of traffic movement was expected to take time, and that alternate routes from Gorakhpur to Nepal were also covered in water.
Travel and tourism businesses in Bhairahawa and Lumbini are losing Rs2 million daily. Pilgrim arrivals to Lumbini from Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, China and India swell during the August-September season.
Visitors start their Buddhist circuit journey at Bodhgaya and proceed to Sarnath and Kushinagar in India and end it in Lumbini.
Tourist bus operators are reluctant to resume services immediately on the flood-hit roads due to fear of causing damage to their expensive luxury coaches, said tourism entrepreneurs.
Alternative routes to Nepal from India like Khalilabad-Anandanagar and Gorakhpur-Maharajgunj-Anandanagar have also been affected by the floods. According to the Immigration Office Belhiya, 6,455 tourists entered Nepal through Sunauli from August 1-15.
Since August 16, arrivals have fallen sharply, with only 2,000 tourists entering Nepal from the check point last week. Entrepreneurs said that around 16,000 tourists dropped their travel plans and returned from Kushinagar after the floods inundated roads in India.
According to the statistics of the Lumbini Development Trust, there were 136,253 tourists in Lumbini in 2016, not counting Indian visitors. The number of Indian visitors stood at 134,269. Sri Lankan visitors numbered 56,033 and Thai visitors numbered 21,926.
Likewise, the holy site received 15,284 visitors from Myanmar, 14,890 from China, 3,901 from South Korea, 3,263 from Vietnam, 3,086 from the Netherlands, 2,917 from Taiwan, 1,480 from Japan, 1,334 from the UK, and 1,272 from the US.