Travel traders design Lumbini tour packagesTravel traders based in Lumbini have started designing various tour packages to prolong the stay of tourists visiting the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. The move is being made after tourists visiting Lumbini started leaving the place after a brief stay or stopover.
Travel traders based in Lumbini have started designing various tour packages to prolong the stay of tourists visiting the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. The move is being made after tourists visiting Lumbini started leaving the place after a brief stay or stopover.
Lumbini saw 20.7 percent growth in tourist arrivals to over 1.55 million in 2017, according to the Lumbini Development Trust. Of these tourists, 1.25 million were domestic visitors, 155,444 were Indians and 301,240 were nationals of countries other than India.
Over the years, many foreign tourists have also started visiting Lumbini via India. But nearly 90 percent of these tourists spend less than an hour in Lumbini before moving on. This has prevented those engaged in tourism business from reaping maximum benefit from tourists visiting the holy site. To prolong the stay of these visitors, travel traders are planning to organise Lumbini village and Buddha circuit tours, and perform cultural shows on a regular basis.
One of the cultural programmes that is likely to become a permanent fixture is Birha dance. The dance encapsulates the period from which Maya Devi, Siddhartha Gautam’s mother, experiences labour pain till the time she returns to Kapilvastu after delivering the baby.
The act will be choreographed by locals and performed in Bhojpuri language, according to Man Mohan Chaudhary, mayor of Lumbini Sanskritik Municipality. “Locals are eager to perform the show,” said Chaudhary. “We hope tourists will like it.”
However, the venue to perform the show has not been fixed yet. “We want the private sector to take the lead on this front. But if private parties do not show interest, the municipality will have to step in,” Chaudhary said.
Travel traders are also planning to organise trips around the birthplace of Gautam Buddha to encourage tourists to extend their stay. There are 13 villages in the vicinity of Gautam Buddha’s birthplace.
“We have already started organising bicycling trips for tourists in these villages. During these trips, tourists learn about local culture, view traditional houses of locals, watch birds, and spend time around lakes,” said Lila Mani Sharma, general secretary of the Siddhartha Hotel Association.
Lumbini is home to people of Madhesi, Chaudhary, dalit and Muslim background. Although Hindus and Muslims dominate this place, religious tolerance is high in this area and Buddhism is highly regarded by everyone. “We are trying to cash in on this unique trait as well to attract tourists,” said mayor Chaudhary.
Recently, travel traders have started encouraging tourists visiting Lumbini to take a tour of Tilaurakot of Kapilvastu, where Gautam Buddha spent 29 years of his life, Kudan, Devdaha, home of Gautam Buddha’s maternal uncles, and Ramagram in Nawalparasi.
“We have designed a three-day tour package, under which tourists are taken around Lumbini and areas surrounding it on the first day. Day Two includes trip to Kapilvastu, including Tilaurakot and on the third day tourists are taken to Devdaha and Ramagram,” said Mithun Shrestha, vice president of the Siddhartha Hotel Association.
Travel traders have also proposed that they be allowed to organise trips to Indian Buddhist pilgrimage sites, such as Kushinagar, where Buddha passed away and was cremated, and Sravasti, where Buddha and his disciples spent 24 years. Currently, Indian tour operators bring in foreign tourists to Lumbini via their country. Travel traders are currently coordinating with the Lumbini Development Trust and the Nepal Tourism Board to take tourists who visit Lumbini to Buddhist pilgrimage sites in India.