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LUMBINI: World famous Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Budhha, is relatively calm these days as touristic activities have significantly slowed down here due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
However, tourism entrepreneurs here have not stopped making investments amidst the adverse situation caused by the pandemic.
Around Rs 25 billion has been invested in Rupandehi-based hotels. There are 2,500 small and big hotels in Rupandehi and 150 of them are considered as standard ones and are presently operational, according to Hotel Entrepreneurs Association, Rupandehi Chair Ram Prasad Gautam.
As Gautam said, Lumbini has been the spot of attraction for aspiring investors as they are hopeful of a boom in the tourism business after the Gautam Buddha International Airport comes into operation. In the past two years, additional 100 hotels have been established here, but the hotel business hit hard by the pandemic is yet to be restored, according to him.
The Lumbini Sanskritik Municipality is home to 124 small and big hotels and restaurants.
Some hoteliers have decided to quit the business as they were forced to shut the outlets for a long due to the COVID-19 impact.
It is said they were finding it hard to pay interest of loan they took to run the business and pay staff and chose to leave the business.
Businesses like hotels, travel agency and small-scale trades linked with tourism business here have been affected by the crisis.
Investors who were earlier encouraged to see the huge potentiality of tourism business due to some completed and under-construction big projects are disappointed by the current situation. Star hotels have remained unoccupied.
We see no ground to restore hotel business in the aftermath of a long closure due to a pandemic. The need for coaching on hotel sanitization and selection and preparation of hygienic food for entrepreneurs and staff is realized in the post-crisis atmosphere.
Lumbini Hotel Association general secretary Leelamani Poudel Sharma said the above-mentioned practices would give a positive message to the public and support restore the business.
Sharma said the tourism entrepreneurs here have not been able to benefit much as the visitors coming to Lumbini do not spend nights in Lumbini. It is said around 1,000 tourists have been daily coming for a visit to Lumbini at present.
“The domestic tourists do not stay overnight due to the risk of COVID-19 whereas the foreign visitors have not been able to come even though they want to. Visitors from Poland, France, Germany, Italy, and other countries want to visit the Buddha’s birthplace. They have phoned us saying they would come immediately after the international flights are resumed.”
Many big infrastructures have been built or are in the process of construction, which have attracted the attention of investors. Among such infrastructure projects is the Gautam Buddha International Airport which has been recently completed and ready for test flights, the Butwal-Bhairahawa and Bhairahawa-Lumbini-Taulihawa four-lane roads, the Bethari-Belbas four-lane highway, the under-construction Butwal-Narayanghat six-lane road, the under-construction International Convention Hall and Exhibition Centre in Butwal, and the 5,000 seating capacity meeting hall in Lumbini.
The Tiger Palace Hotel is in operation near the Baunnakoti Community Forest at Chilhiya, seven kilometers north of Bhairahawa. This five-star hotel has been constructed at an investment of more than five billion rupees. This is the biggest hotel in the area.
Another five-star hotel, Pawan Palace International Hotel, is also operating in Lumbini.
Businessperson Pawan Haluwai among the investors have invested Rs 3 billion in this hotel.
The other five-star hotels in Lumbini are the Buddha Maya Hotel and Hotel Kasai. Both these hotels have an investment of more than Rs 1.5 billion. The latter hotel is owned by Japanese national Nobuo Kasai.
There are more than 70 big and medium-sized hotels in and around Lumbini. The hotels operating out of Lumbini can alone accommodate over 10,000 tourists on a single night.
Lately, Hotel Lumbini Peace Palace with an investment of around one billion has come in operation at Chhapiya and the Hotel Flamingo with an investment of over Rs 500 million has been operated in Butwal.
The tourism development plan for the Lumbini area also mentions that the areas around Lumbini, namely Tilaurakot, Ramgram, Devdaha, Kotihawa, Niglihawa, sagarhawa, Araurakot, Kudan, Sisaniya, are to be developed and promoted in an integrated manner as the Buddhist Sub-Circuit.
However, most of the tourists return from Lumbini itself as these places lack tourist-friendly facilities and infrastructures.