• What’s Delaying Nepal’s Tourism Boom?

    What’s Delaying Nepal’s Tourism Boom?

    By Raunab Singh Khatri

    In 2017, Nepal saw a record 940,000 visitors, missing the stated target of 1 million tourists by a mere 6 percent. Meanwhile, visitors to the Mt. Everest area surged beyond 900,000 for the first time. Thus, it is indeed a period of optimism for Nepal, which seeks to style itself on the global market as a tourist hotspot. For a country of 30 million people, bordered by significantly larger states — China and India — the scope for tourism advancement is obvious.

    For perspective: the number of overseas trips by Chinese during the Spring Festival holiday in January and February of 2017 was estimated at nearly 6 million. For context, only 104,664 tourists from China visited Nepal in the entire calendar year of 2017. If Nepal could lure even 1 percent of the Chinese tourist exodus around Spring Festival, it would be a major boost. Several travel publications, including Lonely Planet, put January-February as a good time to visit Nepal, especially for wildlife exploration and religious travel. So the prospects are there, and it is important for Nepal’s tourism authorities to catch Chinese eyes during this period of mass holiday migration.

    Nepal requires a robust tourism development plan to achieve such a lofty goal. In this regard, the development of regional airports constitutes the “mother of all necessities.”

    Currently, Nepal has only one international airport (Tribhuvan Airport) at Kathmandu. With limited infrastructure, the airport processes only an average of 1,400 tourists in a day.. The government’s decision to purchase additional aircraft for Nepal Airlines only increases the burden on the airport. As per Kul Chandra Gautam, former assistant secretary general of United Nations,  it would be a wrongheaded “nationalist” sentiment to say that a country needs a “national” airline to promote tourism. In Palawan in the Philippines, for example, the local government set up ties with China Airlines to start direct flights from Chinese cities and, with its brand new international airport, it can accommodate 1.9 million passengers per year compared to only 330,000 at its old airport. The province fully furnished the airport in less than two years.  Similarly, many tourist destinations around the Caribbean and African destinations (like Rwanda) have been developed through better airports, increasing the number of international flights.

    Currently, there are two major airport construction projects in Nepal, in Pokhara and Lumbini, financed through China and India. These airports, upon completion, will serve an important function attracting tourists from India and China.

    In China’s case, Nepal’s tourism draw will be very competitive in provinces nearby, but much less so, given the duration of flight and costs, in provinces farther north. These bordering regions present an opportunity for Nepal. More promotion activities should be focused on areas like Tibet, Sichuan, or Yunnan provinces, where the flight duration and costs to make the trip are less. In this regard, Lumbini offers a good example. The birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama  (Lord Buddha) saw 1.7 million tourists in 2017, 1.25 million coming from within Nepal and the rest largely from nearby cities across the Indian border.

    Even if Nepal signs dozens of tourism deals and agreements with Beijing or New Delhi, the real opportunities already lie just across the border.

    Furthermore, new regional airports will act as a magnet for companies. One of the reasons why luxury hotels are opening up in Kathmandu is because of the airport accessibility. This trend can be seen everywhere: research by the Romanian Economic Journal showed that 31 percent of companies that relocated around Munich airport in Germany cited airport access as an important factor in their location decision. Also with new regional airports, the number of tourists can increase substantially, as transportation brings tourists closer to their specific destinations within Nepal. In the case of Lumbini, the average length of stay is an unbelievable 30 minutes. Tourists usually enter Lumbini by crossing the Indian border, which just provides a glimpse of the place, before returning. Thus disadvantaged locals are unable to reap the benefits of a longer stay. With the regional airport, ease of access can attract tourists who stay longer and perhaps visit India from Nepal.

    Political will is the centerpiece of development. Successful tourism destinations across the world have seen the quick construction of airports. In case of Pokhara, mentioned above, even after China’s Export-Import Bank financed the project two years ago, construction has not been completed. Only last summer, one loan, agreed to in 2016, was finally made effective as it took Nepal some time to meet the terms of the disbursement agreement. Foot-dragging on such matters, and arbitrary airplane purchases, are stymieing the progress of Nepal’s potential tourism boom.

    Raunab Singh Khatri is a Masters candidate at Peking University.  – thediplomat.com

    Feb. 2018

    Photo : Tourists visiting Patan Durbar Square / Nepal Travel BizNews

    • News -in- Brief


      10 climbers died this season on Mt. Everest

      A total of 10 climbers have died this season on the world’s highest peak – Mt. Everest. A British climber Robin Haynes Fisher, 44, reached the summit on May 25, but collapsed and died only 150m down from the peak. Climber Kevin Hynes, 56, from Ireland died on May 24 on the northern Tibet side. Other deaths from this week include four from India, one person from Nepal, an Irish, an Austrian and an American.

      The Everest summit is too crowded this year. Nepal is facing scrutiny for issuing a record 381 permits, at $11,000 each, for this year’s Spring season. Rising numbers of people climbing and dying on Everest has led for calls for permits to be limited. The number of people climbing Everest in 2019 could exceed last year’s record of 807 people reaching the summit, according to BBC.

      NATO condemns all forms of violence

      The Nepal Association of Tour Operators has condemned all forms of violence and expressed concerns about the incidents of explosion by a splinter group of the Nepal Communist Party recently.

      NATO has urged all political players to find a common ground through negotiations and other peaceful means to address their grievances.

      “ In light of the Visit Nepal Year 2020 and the Government of Nepal’s stated objective of hosting 2 million visitors that year , NATO calls on the Government of Nepal and its agencies to ensure a violence free atmosphere in which tourists can visit and enjoy the beauty of Nepal.”

      NATO is a non-governmental, non-profit making and non-political organization dedicated and committed to promoting in-bound quality tourism, and developing new and exciting tourism products.

      HAN elects new executive body

      Kathmandu : The 46th annual general meeting of Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) has unanimously elected its new executive committee under the leadership of Shreejana Rana. Rana, the Executive Director of Hotel Annapurna. has become the first woman President of HAN. Likewise, Binayak Shah, Prabin Bahadur Pandey , Sajan Shakya and Vishal Kumar have been elected as Ist vice-president , 2nd vice-president , secretary and treasurer respectively.

      The members in the new executive committee are - Amar Man Shakya (Immediate Past President), Dinesh Bahadur Bist, Bidhata Shrestha, Dinesh Tuladhar, Binod Shanker Shrestha, Biplav Poudel, Gopal Rana, Tseten Tsatultsang, Ram Kumar Puri, Yubaraj Shrestha, Thakur Prasad Pokharel, Rajendra Bhatta, Gyandra Kumar Bist, Rajan Sbrestha, Rahul Shalcya, Hem Bahadur Gurung, CP Shrestha, Asit Shamsher Jung Bahadur Rana, Rahul Choudary and Bhataraj Parajuli.

      Tourist arrival up in Bhaktapur 

      Bhaktapur: A total of 253,863 tourists visited the ancient town Bhaktapur in 2075 BS. The number of tourists coming to observe the historic heritages within the municipality has increased by 34,834 in 2075 BS as compared to the previous year. A total 219,029 tourists including 93,530 from SAARC countries and China, and 125,499 from other countries visited Bhaktapur in 2074 BS while 253,863 tourists including 115,906 from SAARC countries and China, and 137,957 tourists from other countries visited the ancient town in 2075 BS, the Bhaktapur municipality’s Tourism Information Centre stated.

      In 2075 BS, the municipality collected revenue of Rs 265 million in terms of tourist entry fees. The municipality charges Rs 500 per person to tourists from SAARC countries and China, and Rs 1,500 per person to visitors from other countries as tourism fee.

      MoCTCA formed a taskforce to investigate trekking irregularities

      The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation ( MoCTCA ) has formed a taskforce to investigate into the claims for insurance based on fake documents about the emergency rescue of trekkers from high altitudes. The 5- member task force has been given the deadline of June 25 to carry out the investigation into fake documents of trekkers. Some of the trekking agencies, helicopter companies and hospitals are said to be involved in cheating the trekkers making them ill during their trek to different parts of the country.




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