Nepal Tourism Year 2011 and our responsibilities
Posted by Ram Kumar Shrestha on December 17, 2010
Nepalis abroad are promoting Nepal through their daily activities and community events. Promotion of Nepal is ongoing process for Nepali Diaspora. Most of us are involved in promoting Nepal in different fields of our choice. Some of us are involved in promoting national monuments and supporting movements in Nepal for territorial integrity and national independence. Others are dedicated for community and business developments including promotion of trade of Nepali products and tourism. Our involvements in multicultural events are helping promotion of Nepal and integration of our communities in Canadian mainstreams. Thus, the challenge on NRNA is not to promote Nepal, but to channelized our contribution to Nepal to most productive and result oriented sectors. If we want to get tangible results, we most focus our efforts in specific sectors where our collective synergy meets. In backdrop of Nepal Tourism Year 2011, it is only logical that we consolidate our activities to support this initiation of government of Nepal
Nepal government has correctly identified that the problem of tourism industry in Nepal is not only extending stay duration of international visitors but also promoting it to competitive market of tourist destinations. Hence, it has set the objectives of Nepal Tourism Year 2011 as listed below. Though Nepali Diaspora is able to provide Nepali government in policy level, it will be hard for scattered Nepali communities worldwide to provide it with significant non-policy level support to satisfy all of the objectives outlined by it. Hence, it is logical that we pick the most relevant and feasible ones. Therefore, we have to consolidate our efforts to establish Nepal as one of the choices of holiday destinations international communities can satisfy their holiday needs. In this light, picking Lumbini and promoting it as one of very important tourism destination in Nepal makes more sense than any other destinations we currently have.
Objectives of Nepal Tourism Year 2011
As outlined by Government of Nepal, followings are objectives of Nepal Tourism Year 2011:
- Establish Nepal as a choice of premier holiday destination with a definite brand image,
- Improve and extend tourism related infrastructures in existing and new tourism sites,
- Enhance the capacity of service renders,
- Build community capacity in the new areas to cater the need of the tourists, and
- Promote domestic tourism for sustainability of the industry.
Potential North American Clientele
North Americans in general and Canadian in particular, being homed to Rocky Mountains, are attracted to adventure tourism like trekking, rock climbing, hiking, mountaineering and skiing. Additionally, they are also attracted to spirituality and asceticism. Hence, Nepal, a country that hosts 8 out of ten highest mountains of the world can be premier adventure tourism attractions to all Canadians and North Americans. Moreover, peace-loving Canadians would be more interested visiting Lumbini, the birthplace of Sakyamuni Buddha when they are aware of this fact.
After introduction to Tibetan community, Shree-Lankan community and communities from any other Buddhist majority countries, Canadian are attracted to Buddhism and pilgrimage tourism connected to it. Buddhism is fourth largest religion in Canada, when we consider all followers of Christianity as single religious group. Approximately 1% of Canadians and 0.70% of Americans are Buddhists. A survey suggests that approximately 40% of Canadians were ready to spend average $1700.00 for vacation in 2010. As number of Practicing Buddhist increases, there would be significant increase in tourists willing to know more about Buddhism and travel to any corner of this globe to acquire more knowledge on their newly acquire faith and their new religious interest. If we become able to attract a portion of these 40% of Canadians who are attracted to either adventure tourism or Buddhist pilgrimage tourism or both and who can afford to spend their vacation in Nepal, it would be great achievement for us.
Situation of Buddhist Pilgrimage Tourism in Nepal
Nepal is troubled with political instability, policy errors, mismanagement and chronic corruption. Therefore, Dharmashala was able to attract approximately 150,000 tourists in 2007 while Lumbini was able to attract only 71,053 tourists in the same year. Though this dismal performance is due to policy level shortcomings, political instability is one of many regions cited by Lumbini Development Trust as factors for poor tourist visits despite the fact that there was 43.26% and 15.5 % increase in number of tourists visiting from other then SAARC nations visiting Lumbini in 2007 and 2008 respectively. When both of our Neighbours are making money from marketing Buddhist destinations like Bodhgaya, Kushinagar, Dharmashala, other non-credible supposedly Buddhist destinations and Tibet, we are not using potential of religiously most important Buddhist destination, i.e., Lumbini.
Based on dismal performance in tourism development in Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Nepal, the most important responsibility for us is to promote Lumbini as pilgrimage and archaeological tourism destination for North American Buddhists and followers of new age faith. Educating our target clientele about birthplace of Buddha and its current location while dispelling misinformation spread by misguided intellectuals and media workers will certainly help achieve our goal. Our activities in promoting Lumbini and its surroundings including Tilaurakot and Devdaha would help government of Nepal in implementing its strategies in exploring of new tourism market segments and marketing Nepali destinations on regional markets. Our contribution may also help us having our influence in curbing corruption and lawlessness.
Government of Nepal has set target of increasing number tourists visiting from non-SAARC nations from current level to one million per year. While North Americans are big spenders in vacationing, only 8925 Canadians and 35382 Americans have visited Nepal in 2009. This situation must change to if we want some of the wealthiest people spend their vacation in Nepal. We, as informal and unpaid ambassadors of Nepal, are the only people who can partner with Nepali diplomatic agencies and business institutions to increase these numbers and Lumbini can be one of the key attractions that help us meeting goals.
Our Strategy as Nepalis in Canada
- To make it known to Canadians that Buddha was born at Lumbini in ancient Kapilvastu Janapad, which happens to be in current Nepal. To implement this strategy practically, we have to counter the misinformation spread by some intellectuals to serve strategic purpose of certain interest group and by other intellectuals due to lack of enough and credible information that Buddha was born in Nepal. Therefore,
- We need to collect name of books and other media in libraries of academic institutions and other public libraries that spread misinformation about birthplace of Buddha
- We need to collect archaeological facts and corresponding literatures that clearly say that Buddha was born at Lumbini situated in territory of current Nepal.
- We need to compile all of the information that support the Buddha was born in Lumbini as a booklet that can be distributed through libraries or from other information outlets.
- We need to contact appropriate authorities that are using the books and media spreading misinformation as either textbooks or reference materials available in libraries and request for either not to use those materials or distribute our booklet along with the materials they are using.
- Identify documentaries about life of Buddha that depict Kapilvastu and Lumbini in Nepal as birthplace of Buddha and screen them in educational institutions and libraries
- Promote Lumbini and other Nepali tourists destinations through cultural programs and festivals
- Distribute materials related to Nepal Tourism Year 2011 to tours and travel service outlets.
The strategies outlined above should be targeted to increase number of Canadians visiting Nepal to 10% of total Canadian Buddhist population, i.e., approximately three fold of number of Canadians who visited Nepal in 2009. Our target should also meet our long term goal of developing Lumbini and its surroundings that have importance in life of Buddha and Buddhist theology as sustainable pilgrimage, archaeological and cultural tourism destination. This target can only be met by educating interested Canadians the facts surrounding Sakyamuni Buddha’s birthplace and life and his activities after enlightenment including his sermons at Kapilvastu area.
Given Importance of Kapilvastu (Lumbini, Tilaurakot, Devdaha, etc.), the current situation of Buddhist pilgrimage tourism in Nepal, potential North American Market and our strategic location, we Nepalis in Canada are the people who can make significant contribution of development of tourism industry in Nepal. Our involvement in promoting Kapilvastu and other places related to Sakyamuni Buddha also helps in promoting Nepali patriotism and consolidating Nepali national unity and territorial integrity. Thus, NRNA-NCC’s involvement in promoting Kapilvastu should be considered as single action that serves multiple purposes with least efforts. Hence, Nepalis in Canada and beyond should have specific plans and programs to promote Nepali tourism destinations including the areas significant to Sakyamuni Buddha life. NRNA international committee and NCCs worldwide can make enormous contribution to make Kapilvastu Mecca of Buddhists, Hindus, followers of New Age religions and spiritual gurus and researchers worldwide.
* Mr. Chandra Rai is the Canada Coordinator (Secretariat Member) and Mr. Bhanu Poudyal the Special Coordinator of Kapilvastu Day Movement Global Committee.