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Nepal Plans to Promote Health Tourism Based on Traditional Medicine

Nepal plans to step up health tourism investment along the lines of Kerala, a hot tourist destination for ayurvedic treatments and health packages. //

"Being a source of rare Himalayan herbs and oils, we are looking keenly at wellness tourism," Nandini Lahe-Thapa, the Nepal Tourism Board's director of marketing and promotion, told IANS.

"Inspired by the success of Kerala (in southern India), Thailand and Malaysia, we will be looking at more investment in the wellness sector," she said.

Though similar to ayurvedic treatment in the use of herbs and oils, the traditional system practised in Nepal has its origin in the Tibetan healing system. It also combines components of Buddhist religion with influences from Indian ayurveda and Chinese medical traditions.

"As an offshoot of our rich herbal heritage, we are planning to promote the wellness theme. We already have the Kunfen organisation with branches all over Nepal and even overseas where healing is done through mantras, chants and medicines prepared with a blend of herbs and metals, including precious metals and stones," she said.

"Once the wellness concept spins off, it will span a whole lot of activities related to health," Lahe-Thapa said.

Indian health products major Dabur is one of the major enterprises that is engaged in cultivation of rare herbs and manufacture of herbal products in Nepal targeting the growing interest in ayurvedic products.

Besides healing centres and spas, the Nepal Tourism Board, which is largely supported by the private sector, is looking at the seven golf courses in the country to woo tourists, Indians in particular, for golf holidays in Pokhara, Kathmandu and Dharan.

After a successful car rally from Kolkata, Nepal is keenly looking forward to hosting more such events to attract holidaymakers keen on weekend getaways.

"We have lined up an array of weekend packages that caters to the body, mind and soul. On offer are adventure, parties, shopping, spiritual (events), wildlife, energizing, romantic and family weekends with plenty of activities to choose from for the middle class and the young with lots of disposable income," Lahe-Thapa said.

With packages ranging from Rs.10,000 to Rs.12,000 per head inclusive of airfare and hospitality, the official foresees a good response.

Together with India, Bhutan and Bangladesh, Nepal is trying to develop its Buddhist pilgrim centres like Lumbini Gardens, the birthplace of the Buddha, under an Asian Development Bank-funded project.

Eco-tourism is another area of major focus as Nepal seeks to offer a wider choice to tourists seeking holistic rejuvenation.

At the centre of all these proposals are Indians who form the major bulk of tourist flow to Nepal, which is striving to raise the inflow from the current level of 375,000.


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