Prime Minister of Nepal Sher Bahadur Deuba has inaugurated Nepal’s second international airport, the Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA).

Prime Minister Deuba described the opening of the airport as an historic day in Nepal’s aviation and tourism sectors, adding that the facility will contribute to the country’s overall development and prosperity in the long run.

Speaking at the inauguration, Arnaud Cauchois, Asian Development Bank (ADB) country director for Nepal, congratulated the Government of Nepal on the completion and opening of the airport despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

“The airport will help connect Lumbini – a major tourist and pilgrimage destination – to Buddhist circuits in South Asia as well as to the rest of the world. In a broader context, the airport will form a cornerstone of the country’s overall development by facilitating tourism, expanding trade and economic activities, generating local employment opportunities, and improving international air transport access to migrant workers and people living in the nearby provinces,” he said.

The airport is 19km from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. The new airport facility, which can accommodate wide-body airplanes, features a 15,169m2 terminal building and a new runway of 3,000m. Moreover, an advanced instrument landing system will be used in GBIA, a first for Nepal, to allow aircraft landing even in reduced visibility.

“The opening of the airport is a moment of pride for the country. As Nepal’s second international airport, GBIA will serve as an alternate for Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, and airlines will no longer have to divert to other countries in the event of bad weather or other technical issues,” said Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Prem Bahadur Ale.

ADB supported the Government of Nepal in upgrading and building GBIA through the South Asia Tourism Infrastructure Development Project. The total cost of the airport construction is $76.1m. Of this, ADB’s contribution is about $37m in loans and grants, while the OPEC Fund for International Development contributed about $11m on a loan basis. The rest is funded by the Government of Nepal.

ADB’s South Asia Tourism Infrastructure Development Project is helping Bangladesh, India, and Nepal improve infrastructure and services in key tourism sites.

GBIA’s opening was marked by the successful landing of an international commercial flight.