'Develop Buddhist Circuit'

The Himalayan Times, June 28, 2010

KATHMANDU, Nepal -- Targeting Buddhist Tourism, Himalayan Expedition in January 2011 is going to launch Buddhist Circuit involving primary pilgrimage places associated with the life and teachings of Lord Buddha. Lumbini, Sarnath, Bodhgaya and Kushinagar are the primary pilgrimage places along with numerous other sites where Buddha and the saints travelled will be part of the itinerary, S K Singh of Jatak Travels India said.

Global tourism trend has shifted to Asian Tourist market with 40 per cent of total tourists in the international tourism market arriving from Asian Countries. “Trend of tourism is changing with the interval of time and there is a need of new products to be identified,” said Prachanda Man Shrestha, Chief Executive Officer of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).

Special tour programmes should be launched for the promotion of Nepal Tourism Year (NTY) 2011 and also cross-border tour package should be developed, said Shrestha.

“Visitors can travel through this Buddhist Circuit in a very economic package to savour splendid beauty and great appeal of Buddhism,” said Singh. He also said that at present there are two 42 seater buses that are Enlightenment Express and Lumbini Express with European standard and the package will be of 6 nights in India and 3 nights in Nepal within an economy rate of $ 40 per day.

“More than 90 per cent of tour operators are offering Buddhist tour package whereas in Nepal most of them are focusing on expedition and adventure package,” said Singh adding that Nepali tour operator along with existing tour and travel packages should also develop package tour related to Buddhist circuits.

Nepal is a more tourism-friendly destination therefore it should develop new tour packages with adequate number of language guides. Shrestha also expressed his pleasure over the initiatives taken by the private sector to focus on creative issues of the Buddhist tour package. “Launch of such special tours will definitely promote Nepal Tourism Year (NTY) 2011,” said Shrestha also adding that this kind of initiative will help cope up with the global tourism trend that has now shifted increasingly to Asian Tourist market.

“We will be running trail operation of the Buddhist Circuit in November this year and will make formal inauguration in January 2011,” said Bikrum Pandey, a tourism professional. “Buddhist Circuits Pilgrimage Tours will be a fixed departure and targets to increase the stay period of 80,000 – One lakh tourists arriving Lumbini,” said Pandey.

At present the estimated business of Buddhist circuits are about 300, 000 tourists per year of which Nepal gets only a few days’ journey from Indian itinerary for the Lumbini sector. So in the present scenario, Nepal gets hardly anything. Only if, tourists stay for one night in Lumbini from the present popular Indian Itinerary then Nepal can earn $ 3,000,000, that is in case of one lakh tourist with a spending of $ 30 per day.