Religious Tourism

Post floods, Lumbini sees fall in tourism

BHAIRAHAWA: Tourism in Bhairahawa and Lumbini has plunged following the August 11 floods that swept across the southern plains and border regions in India.

The Gorakhpur-Sunauli highway, a key overland entry point into Nepal from India, was inundated, blocking all motor traffic, reports eKantipur.

Hoteliers said tourists had been cancelling advance bookings en masse during a prime season for Buddhist pilgrimage. Almost all hotels had been sold out before the deluge.

Travel trade entrepreneurs said floodwaters had covered the Indian town of Pipiganj in Gorakhpur district in Uttar Pradesh state, crippling transportation and preventing travellers from going to Nepal. The town lies on the 75-km Gorakhpur-Sunauli highway.

Sunauli is the busiest among eight key entry points on the Nepal-India border for tourists visiting Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha.

“Tourism business has been affected badly by the floods in India,” said Chandra Prakash Shrestha, president of the Siddhartha Hotel Association. “Tourists coming to Nepal are forced to return from Gorakhpur.” He added that resumption of traffic movement was expected to take time, and that alternate routes from Gorakhpur to Nepal were also covered in water.

Travel and tourism businesses in Bhairahawa and Lumbini are losing Rs2 million daily. Pilgrim arrivals to Lumbini from Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, China and India swell during the August-September season.

Visitors start their Buddhist circuit journey at Bodhgaya and proceed to Sarnath and Kushinagar in India and end it in Lumbini.

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