KATHMANDU: President Bidya Devi Bhandari on Saturday inaugurated the Visit Lumbini Year 2076 BS, inviting all domestic and international tourists to visit the birth place of Lord Buddha.

Inaugurating the campaign launched by Province 5 government, the President stated that the development of Lumbini would play a positive role to lead the province 5 towards prosperity.

The President stressed to effectively implement the 10-year Lumbini Master Plan to develop the site as the centre for world peace. The master plan aims to develop Lumbini as a pilgrimage hub. The objective of the plan is to increase the length of stay and spending of tourists and improve the livelihood of local communities.

The plan envisages integrating Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha; Tilaurakot, his childhood home; Devdaha, his maternal and in-laws home town and Ramgram in Nawalparasi, which contains one of the relics of the Buddha, into the Greater Lumbini Development Area which will be 157 sq km in size.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said that Lumbini would be developed as the World Peace centre where Buddhists will make the pilgrimage visit at least once in their lifetime. The campaign has been aimed at attracting domestic visitors this year with Province 5 government starting promotional campaign drive in all seven provinces.

More than 1.55 million tourists visited Lumbini in 2017. Among them, there were 1.25 million domestic visitors, according to the statistics of the Lumbini Development Trust. The statistics show that foreigner numbers stood at 301,240, including 155,444 Indian visitors.

Despite the growth in foreign tourist numbers, foreign tourists’ stay in the birthplace of Buddha has not increased, travel trade entrepreneurs said. Nearly 90 percent of foreigners visiting Lumbini spend less than an hour in the area before moving on.