LUMBINI , JAN 15 –
The Visit Lumbini Year 2012 formally began on Saturday, with President Ram Baran Yadav inaugurating the campaign at the Central Canal in Lumbini, the birth place of the Buddha.
“I declare 2012 as the Visit Lumbini Year and the end of the Nepal Tourism Year (NTY) 2011,” said President Yadav, lighting a peace torch amid a programme attended by more than 5,000 people, diplomats, government officials and stakeholders.
During the VLY 2012, the government aims to attract 1 million tourists, half of them foreigners. About 600,000 tourists, including 129,000 foreigners, visited Lumbini in 2011.
President Yadav also launched ‘Vision 2020’, a tourism perspective plan. The plan aims to bring in 2 million foreign tourists annually by 2020 to augment economic opportunities and increase employment in the tourism sector to 1 million.
Given religious pilgrimage becoming a key component of tourism activity in Nepal, the government aims to promote tourism through the birth place of revered Lord Buddha, and give global recognition to Lumbini through the VLY. “The declaration of VLY is to convey Buddha’s message of peace to the world,” said the President. “The objective of the VLY is also to encourage Nepalis through Buddha’s message of peace for timely drafting of the constitution,” he added, urging all to help make the event a success.
Minister of Culture Gopal Kiranti said VLY’s main aim is to conserve the historical and religious importance of Lumbini—a Unesco world heritage site. He added the commencement of VLY has opened the door to economic advancement through tourism.
Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Lokendra Bista Magar said the VLY would play an important role in the development of areas surrounding Lumbini and create employment opportunities. Although the NTY fell short of its target of bringing in 1 million tourists, it helped identify new tourist destinations, he said. “Now the government aims to promote tourism for the country’s economic development in a better planned manner,” Magar added. “For this, we have launched the Vision 2020.”
Under Vision 2020, the government seeks to conduct tourism campaigns every year and the events will be aimed mainly at increasing employment, identifying new tourism products and uplifting the economic condition of the rural people through ‘proper’ and ‘justifiable’ utilisation of local resources.
Acharya Karma Sangbo Sherpa, vice-chairman of Lumbini Development Trust, said Lord Buddha would reward all with his spiritual blessing for this noble cause. “Peace lies within us. It is not on the outside,” he said, highlighting Buddha’s teaching.
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai formally announced the VLY in Lumbini on December 1 last year. The Cabinet declared the campaign on October 17, 2011.
VLY has been envisaged as a driver to position Nepal as a safe and happening destination in the world. According to the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation, Nepal is becoming a major spiritual tourism destination for East Asian travellers attracted by Lumbini. Although not much attention has been paid to marketing and promoting Buddhist sites, the number of religious visitors has been growing each year.
Nepal Tourism Statistics (2010) shows that the number of foreign pilgrims increased 96.6 percent in 2010 year on year.
According to the data, pilgrimage is the No 1 objective of most of the tourists, followed by trekking/mountaineering, holiday/pleasure and business. Of the 602,867 foreign visitors in 2010, 101,335 stated pilgrimage as their purpose of visit.
President launches Visit Lumbini Year | Business | ekantipur.com.