The first Buddhist International Travel Mart began in Lumbini, the birth place of Gautam Buddha, today.Inaugurating the event, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Prasad Adhikari said the number of visitors to Lumbini would increase after the construction of Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa. He said international flights would be operated from this airport from mid-September. “Two million tourists are expected to visit Lumbini in 2020,” he said. Province 5 Minister of Industry, Tourism, Forest and Environment Lila Giri said the province government was planning to promote religious tourism in the province by connecting Kapilbastu, Devdaha, Ramgram and other areas associated with the life of Buddha.
He added that preparations were under way to celebrate ‘Visit Lumbini Year’ in 2020. Lumbini Development Trust Vice-chairperson Bhikkhu Metteya said LDT had called for global tender after the Lumbini master plan could not be implemented even after years.
Tourism Secretary Krishna Devkota said the ministry had given priority to tourism development in Lumbini. Indian tourism entrepreneur Ashish Gupta said Nepal and India could work in collaboration for tourism development in Lumbini as it was a centre of attraction for tourists. He suggested creating an environment for luring the visitors coming to Nalanda, Kushinagar, Bodhgaya of India to Lumbini. Former president of Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Suraj Baidya suggested making Lumbini more attractive.Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents has organised the event for the first time in Lumbini in association with the Ministry of Tourism and Nepal Tourism Board. The mart will run for three days and tourism entrepreneurs from 17 countries are participating in the mart.