20-26 March 2015 #750

Can Nepal attract half a million pilgrims by 2024?

Can we turn the country into the cradle of eastern spirituality?

‘Ne-pal’ implies keepers (pala) of the abode of the gods (ne). Can we live up to the name to turn our country into the cradle of eastern spirituality?


Pilgrims: High volume Low spending?

Source: Nepal Tourism Statistics 2012, 2013

Many pilgrims from predominantly Buddhist countries enter Nepal by land. Pilgrims from Sri Lanka, Thailand and Myanmar accounted for almost 58% of all pilgrims in 2012; while more than 90% of tourists from those 3 countries entered Nepal via land. Tourists from these three countries were also among the shortest stayers in Nepal; they stayed for a combined average of less than 6 days. In comparison, almost all Indian tourists in 2012, including pilgrims, entered Nepal via air (All data doesn’t seem accounted for). These Indian tourists also stayed for longer, an average of 9.34 days.

Where else after Lumbini or Pashupatinath?

Spiritual travellers may visit Rinpocche learning centres such as the Asura Cave Temple in Pharping, the Kopan Monastary in Kapan, Lawudo Gompa retreat center in Solu Khumbu, or the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in Boudanath.

Travellers may also consider visiting hidden jewels such as the Khaptad Ashram in Khaptad, Halesi Mahadev temple in Khotang, or Pathibhara Devi in Taplejung.

Spiritualism or trekking?

The graph for 2013 has higher peaks for April, June and October
Source: Nepal Tourism Statistics 2012

Pilgrims seem to come during the off-seasons for trekkers and mountaineers. Enough spiritual tourists may help smoothen the seasonality in the tourism industry. Yet, trekkers and mountaineers may also be interested in spirituality. More people (excluding Nepalis and Indians) visited Lumbini and Pashupatinath templearea than total pilgrims for 2012 and 2013 (look below).

Yoga tourism for spiritual trekkers

Meditative experiences are very attractive to spiritual tourists. They may opt for relaxing experiences in Dhamma Pokhara’s Vipassana center, the Nepal Vipassana Centre in Dharmashringa, or the Osho Tapoban. Some entrepreneurs have also begun to promote ideas of Yoga treksin Nepal. Tourists may trek to off-the-beat spiritual sites in packages that emphasize trekking as much as yoga.

Source: Nepal Tourism Statistics 2012, 2013

A piece of the global religious tourism pie

UNWTO estimates that 300-330 million tourists visit the world’s key religious sites each year. Global numbers of Hindu pilgrims alone are massive Ayappan Saranam, Hindu Mela, Tirupati, and Dwarka in India together attract 55 million tourists annually.

While numbers for Buddhist pilgrims are not available, we do know there are about 488 million Buddhists worldwide. The five countries with the largest number of Buddhists are China, Thailand, Japan, Myanmar and Sri Lanka. Globally, Buddhists are older, with median age of 34, than the overall population, with median age 28 (PEW, Global Religious Landscape 2012).

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