Work has started to improve tourist infrastructure at the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, Lumbini.
According to a report by China’s Xinhua news agency, the Nepalese government wants to develop the town in southern Nepal into a major tourist destination.
The broader Lumbini tourist region will comprise three separate districts – Lumbini, Nawalparasi and Rupandehi. It will incorporate several key Buddhist religious and archaeological sites including Ramnagar, Tilaurakot, Kudan, Niglihawa, Ashoka Pillar, Sagrahawa, Arorakot and Devdeha.
“There are more than one billion Buddhists in the world. If we could attract 20% of them to the holy land of Lumbini, that will be more than enough,” said Purna Chandra Bhattarai, the joint secretary at Nepal’s Tourism Ministry.
The development of Lumbini follows a US$3 billion development deal penned between Nepal and China in 2011, including the development of a new airport, roads, hotels and other facilities. And according to Bhattarai, China is an important and fast-growing source market for Lumbini.
“The tourist hub would draw hundreds of thousands of tourists from China alone if we can market and promote Lumbini,” he said.
Statistics from Nepal’s government show that 800,000 tourists currently visit Lumbini every year, but authorities believe Buddhism’s holiest site can become as popular as Mecca or the Vatican, both of which receive more than five million visitors a year.
Lumbini, which lies approximately 170km west of Kathmandu and close to the Indian border, was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. It is the site where Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623BC.