Tourists come to Janakpur in droves, but stay only for a dayTourists in Janakpur complain of difficulty in navigation for lack of proper tourism infrastructure.
The number of tourists has increased considerably in Janakpudham in recent months, say tourism entrepreneurs. Hotels and Dharmashalas—rest houses for pilgrims— in the area are being fully occupied by tourists. According to hotel operators, the arrival of Indian tourists has increased four-fold in the last two months.
However, a lack of proper infrastructures, such as signages, toilets and street signs, to support tourism has put a limit on tourist movement.
Most tourists pay a visit to Janakpurdham after visiting popular destinations in Kathmandu and Pokhara, but they don’t spend more than a day in Janakpur, say tourism entrepreneurs.
“The campaigns to promote tourism are terrible. Most tourists who come here aren’t even aware of Visit Nepal 2020,” said Jibnath Chaudhary, the operator of Sita Palace Hotel in Janakpur Sub-Metropolitan City Ward No. 8.
There are no banners, signages or tourist guides to help visitors find their way around the city, leaving most perplexed for lack of clear indications as to where to go and how to get there.
Many tourists complained that they have to repeatedly ask locals for the direction to reach the Janaki Temple from Gopal Dharmashala, which is not more than 300 metres away from the temple.
"Our bus driver had to roam around for an hour to reach Gopal Dharmashala, as there were no street signs or clear directions," said Radhe Shyam Mishra, who had come from Madhya Pradesh in India. "It would be very helpful for tourists if there were proper direction signages for dharmashalas, temples and other tourist destinations in the city."
Every day seven to fifteen tourist buses arrive in Gopal Dharmashala, the oldest Dharmashala in the area. Most of the tourists are from the Indian states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. Each bus has at least 60 passengers, including the driver and bus conductor.
"Our normal flow is five tourist buses per day," said Raj Kumar Jha, the managing director of Gopal Dharmashala. "But these days, we receive around 20 buses in a day."
Many Indian pilgrims visit Janakpur between the months of December and mid- February. “The leisure from agricultural activities and the weather prompt the people from India to visit Janakpur during this time of the year,” said Jha.
Most of the big hotels and lodges, including Paglababa Dharmashala, Marwadi Sewa Samiti, Rauniyaar Dharmashala and Kalwar Sewa Samiti, are fully occupied with domestic and foreign tourists during this time of the year.
Highlighting the possibility of religious tourism taking off in Province 2, Lalbabu Raut, the province’s chief minister, said, "We have introduced plans and policies related to the reconstruction, beautification, and management of religious sites of Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, and Jains."
In light of Raut’s commitment to promoting religious tourism in the province and given the severe lack of tourism infrastructure, Manish Jha, coordinator of the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign in Province 2, said that the committee has directed the sub-metropolis to work towards facilitating tourists.
"We have requested Janakpur Sub-metropolitan City to fix street signs and direction signboards to help tourists find their way around the city," said Jha.
The Post tried to reach the mayor of the sub-metropolis, Lal Kishor Sah, but he was unavailable for comment.
Janakpur is also called the city of 52 temples and 72 lakes. But most visitors are unaware of the many tourist destinations in the province, so they return home after visiting some temples in Janakpur.
According to Raut, the beautification process of Janaki Temple in Janakpur, Chhinamasta Temple in Saptari, Rauja Majar in Mahottari and Gadhimai in Bara will start soon.
Locals believe that the duration of a visitor’s stay can be prolonged if the process of informing tourists about tourist destinations is streamlined.
Sunil Mallik, an expert in Mithila culture, said Janakpur is the place of origin of Mithila culture, and that besides temples, Mithila art and literature should also be promoted to cater to tourists who visit Janakpur.
"We can attract more tourists by informing them about Mithila foods, culture, customs and traditions," said Mallik. “But more importantly, we should focus on making the city more tourist-friendly and easy to navigate.”