Given the close cultural and religious ties between Sri Lanka and Thailand, measures are being taken to promote bilateral tourism between the two predominantly Buddhist nations.
In order to lay the foundation for this initiative a delegation from Sri Lanka headed by Minister of Tourism Development and Wildlife, John Amaratunga visited Thailand and held a series of meetings with key officials. The special focus of these meetings was to promote Sri Lanka’s Buddhist sites among Thai tourists.
Kicking off the promotional programme Minister John Amaratunga met the Executive Committee of the Thai Chamber of Commerce headed by its President, Kalin Sarasin.
The matters discussed included developing air connectivity and creating more awareness about Sri Lanka’s tourism attractions. The Thai Chamber of Commerce agreed to promote Sri Lanka vigorously while also exploring opportunities in infrastructure development projects including port operations and cruise operations. Development of the Wellness Tourism sector in Sri Lanka was another key area of focus.
Minister Amaratunga also met President of the Young Buddhist Association of Thailand, Montian Thananart. The Association functions under Royal Patronage. The discussion centered on promoting the Buddhist Trail in Sri Lanka and to double the current number of arrivals during the course of the year.
During the meeting it was revealed that a young group of pilgrims are already on their way to Sri Lanka on a fact finding mission. Minister Amaratunga promised to extend all support and assistance to make this mission a success.
They also showed keen interest in Buddhist education programmes conducted by the Sri Lanka International Buddhist Academy which is under the management of Sri Dalada Maligawa – Kandy.
At present 45,000 Thai nationals travel to Buddhist countries for meditation and retreat programs annually. The Young Buddhist Association of Thailand will join hands with Sri Lanka Tourism to influence Buddhist travelers to visit Sri Lanka for meditation. The Minister also invited the Association to host their annual conventions and meetings in Sri Lanka. The Minister agreed to establish a Buddhist Information center for the benefit of such travelers.
Minister Amaratunga and delegation also met Ven. Fra Anil Sakya, the rector of World Buddhist University which is the largest Virtual Buddhist University that has institutions located around the globe conducting Buddhist academic studies. The Venerable Thero is considered the most influential Buddhist personality in Thailand that binds with the Royal Family, Government and people of Thailand.
Minister Amaratunga stated that the three-hour meeting with the Thero was very fruitful and mutually beneficial to both Sri Lanka and Thailand. The Thero had stated that he will organize a special two day Sri Lanka Promotion in Thailand in association with all stake holders. Minister Amaratunga had thanked the Ven. Thero for his whole hearted support for promoting tourism and had invited him to hold the next International Buddhist Convention in Sri Lanka.
Theravada Buddhism in Thailand is now known as Lankavamsa. This is because 700 years ago, King Ramkhamhaeng of Thailand had requested senior monks from Sri Lanka to come to his country and teach their views of Buddhism, which led to the birth of Lankavamsa in Thailand.