Delegation from Nepal arrive to promote ‘Visit Lumbini 2012’

Tuesday, 14 August 2012 00:49 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Shanuka Tissera

A delegation from Nepal arrived in Sri Lanka on 11 August in a bid to increase the number of Sri Lankan tourists visiting Nepal. The Hotel Association Nepal, Nepal Investment Board and high powered business delegates are to spend five days in Sri Lanka promoting ‘Visit Lumbini 2012’ and provide investment opportunities in Nepal.

The five day program commenced with B2B meetings between the team from Nepal and keen investors in a range of fields, from tourism and hospitality to energy sector professionals. The Nepalese government has declared that ‘Visit Lumbini’ is a high priority opportunity that must be addressed especially in Sri Lanka. Both countries share similar cultures and common sentiments such as family, religion and service. Sri Lanka being a Buddhist nation and Lumbini being known around the world for being the birth place of Buddha, there is potential for beneficial growth for both parties.

The country boasts having 133 archaeological sites inclusive of pilgrimage areas. Lumbini is also listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. Hotel Association Nepal President Shyam S.L. Kakshapati said, “Lumbini is a timeless place, it is extremely historical and we want to share this special promotion with Sri Lanka. It will give a chance for pilgrims to go on a quest to satisfy their soul.”

In 2011, a total of 60,000 Sri Lankans visited Nepal, 50% of which arrived through India. The delegation from Nepal announced that they are looking to increase the number of Sri Lankan tourists by 100% within one year. The Travel Association of Sri Lanka is in partnership with the Hotel Association Nepal as they have calculated that intra-regional travel is becoming more popular, therefore more profitable within the SAARC region.

Most Sri Lankan pilgrims enlist to go on the Buddhist circuit via India and would travel to Nepal directly however, due to financial reasons, airlines stop in India and then to Nepal. Despite the strength of Nepal, its ability to accommodate flight schedules directly from Sri Lanka is hindering true levels of potential growth. Bilateral talks for direct flights are currently taking place but no time period is yet to be set.

Nepal Tourism Board Officiating CEO Subash Niroula explained how people to people information must be clearer. The government of Nepal have become more relaxed and are open to new ideas as it will alleviate confusion. “The debate of whether Buddha was born in Lumbini is only about technicalities. Around 300.BC there were no boundaries, just jungle. This is why we are seeing some confusion today and we must move forward.”

The second agenda of the delegation is regarding investments opportunities. Nepal is currently experiencing economic growth at 3.5% and is looking to focus on increasing trade and investment with its immediate neighbours. The Nepal Investment Board, Chaired by the Prime Minister is now looking for the most efficient manner in which they can facilitate foreign direct investment. A one window system implying foreign investment is simple and quick is the vision that the country wishes to put into practice. Priority sectors for investment are similar to that of Sri Lanka. There is large opportunity to invest in infrastructure projects such as renewable energy sources and transport.

In 2011, Nepal passed the 800,000 tourist mark of which 35% were Indians followed by US and UK with the goal set to have two million tourists by the year 2020. Developing the tourism sector is top priority for the nation that has had its share of ups and down. There will be special promotions for Sri Lankans wishing to visit Nepal Lumbini 2012, not only for pilgrimage reasons but for the likes of Mount Everest and a buzzing cultural lifestyle.