It goes without saying that the Lalitpur Metropolis is one of the major tourist attractions within the Kathmandu Valley. Being home to countless temples, stupas, traditional artifacts and monuments and historical palaces, Patan that lies in the heart of the metropolis is an artistic city. The Patan Durbar Square, Patan Dhoka, Hiranyabarna Mahavihara, Mahabouddha Temple, Banglamukhi Temple, Ratnakar Mahavihar, Krishna Mandir and the Central Zoo are some of the tourist attractions.
Listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites, the Patan Durbar Square is an area where the Malla Kings had resided. Patan is also a centre of the Newari culture and tradition. Considering the Visit Nepal Year 2020, the metropolis is planning to lure more foreign as well as domestic tourists. The metropolis has already formed a committee to make necessary preparations for boosting tourism. The metropolis has appointed former governor of Rotary International 3292 Nepal-Bhutan, Dilendra Raj Shrestha, as a tourism coordinator. The committee is working out plans to offer special tour packages for tourists and disseminate the actual information about the tourism resources in the international market.
Talking to The Rising Nepal, Shrestha said that the committee would introduce a variety of packages to attract more tourists into the district in 2020. “We will be offering special packages for the tourists during the VNY. We will offer discounts to tourists on accommodation and food. For this, we are holding discussions with Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) and Restaurant & Bar Association Nepal (REBAN) in this regard,” said Shrestha.
Three major hotels-- Hotel Himalaya, Summit Hotel and Hotel Greenwich Village-- are inside the metropolis. There are also several other hotels. They can accommodate some 700-800 tourists per night. Besides, home-stay facilities are also available in the metropolis.
There should be extra incentives for tourists to come here in 2020. The government and the private sector need to make joint efforts in order to encourage them to visit Nepal during the national tourism campaign. The government should announce substantial discounts on airfare as well. It can do so by joining hands with Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) in order to bring in more tourists. It can also coordinate with the private airlines for offering discounts to tourists.
The metropolis is in the process of making an annual calendar to organise different cultural programmes in various places and wards inside the city.
“We aim to form a committee incorporating the various communities of the core area of Patan to organise cultural and religious programmes throughout the year,” he said.
More than 20 different communities, including ethnic and religious ones, are in the core area of Patan. Those communities, their culture and lifestyle could be the key tourist attractions.
According to him, they are planning to organise the Lalit festival for four-five days during the VNY. The city has also planned to introduce an evening tourism programme in the Patan area.
“For this programme, we will identify few routes where tourist guides have yet to take tourists. Normally, tourists have been visiting only few temples and places of Patan Durbar Square. This is not enough for tourists to know about the real religious, monumental and cultural aspects of Patan,” he added.
The three main courtyards in the palace area include Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk and Keshav Narayan Chowk. Besides these courtyards, the complex boasts impressive temples, religious shrines, and historical places, all noted for their exquisite carvings and beautiful display of ancient Newari architecture.
The traditional settlements of the Newar community are the main tourist attractions. But they have not been popular among tourists because tourist guides do not have much knowledge about such settlements. So, the metropolis is preparing to start the thematic tour programmes like Buddhar Vihar and craft tours (stone carving, wooden carving and metal craft) for which Patan is famous.
Patan is also recognised as a wall city. In Patan, there are more than 22 gates, including Patan Dhoka, from where the alternative tour will start. But now, there are no gates. What only remains is their name. Similarly, Patan is also well-known as a Buddhist city where more than 22 big Buddha Viharas are inside the metropolis. “When tourists enter the core area of Patan and Buddha Vihara, they will really know about the traditional culture and religion the Newari community living in Patan,” he said.
He said that the city is lobbying with the concerned authorities, including VNY committee and Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) for the promotion of tourism of the Lalitpur district. Under the evening tour package, the NTB has committed to managing lights along the routes identified by the metropolis, he said.
In order to facilitate tourists to visit the places, the metropolis is publishing the brochure highlighting the places to visit in Lalitpur, he said.
“We will also publish a booklet on tour routes where tourists can visit even without hiring a guide. We will put arrow marks along the tour route,” he said.
The metropolis is planning to install a lighting system in the Patan Durbar Square so as to enable tourists to see all the monuments there. The VNY secretariat has planned to set up a Namaste Centre in Patan as a help desk and also to provide information to tourists.
“Despite all this, we cannot bring tourists in the absence of promotion. Launching any national tourism campaign alone will not be enough.
Social media is very powerful means of marketing. We can promote the monuments and tourist destinations at home and abroad through social media.
Lalitpur alone cannot promote tourism in the international market, he said, adding that a state-level effort was a must for making the upcoming national tourism event a success.
He suggested that the government agencies should coordinate with the big tour operators as role of them would be vital to bring in more tourists by selling more attractive packages.
“We are planning to register few local tourist guides to disseminate the information about the artifacts and highlight the history and importance of monuments and places to tourists,” he said. The metropolis is also planning to restrict the entry of hawkers in the touristic areas as they cause hassles to tourists. Despite being a major tourist destination, the inflow of foreign tourists into Patan has not been so remarkable. While the country welcomed more than 10 million tourists last year, Patan was able to host only about 125,000 tourists. This is just 8 per cent of total tourist arrivals. “So, we have to make extra efforts to welcome more foreign tourists into Patan in the days to come.” Tourism marketing and promotion activities are a continuing process to attract tourists. The government and tourism entrepreneurs should promote tourism from their respective sides regularly at home and abroad. The reconstruction of all monuments, except for Bhimsen Temple, will be completed in the metropolis before the VNY.