Lukla air travel soars as tourist numbers rise

Published On: January 18, 2024 05:27 PM NPT By: Republica

SOLUKHUMBU, Jan 18: Tourist arrivals at the Tenzing Hillary Airport in Lukla, a popular spot in Solukhumbu district, have shot up by 23 percent. According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) Lukla branch, there's been a nearly 24% increase in people using air services in Lukla in 2023 compared to 2022. 

Umesh Panthi, the head of the CAAN Lukla office, said that in 2022, only 115,011 tourists used air services, while the number increased to 133,274 in 2023, marking a numerical rise of 31,773. Panthi said that the majority of air service users are foreign tourists. 

According to Panthi, the influx of foreign visitors to Khumbu saw a notable rise during the off-season of 2023. Lukla Airport, renowned as the gateway to the Everest Region, experienced a surge in air service use. Amrit Magar, the station in-charge of Tara Airlines Lukla, said that a significant number of foreign tourists accessing Khumbu prefer reaching Lukla by air from Kathmandu or Manthali in Ramechhap. From Lukla, they then embark on an uphill journey on foot.

He said that the majority of tourists heading for Khumbu rely on air services due to the lack of a road leading to Lukla. Only a limited number choose to travel by car to the district headquarters via Salleri and Thamdanda, continuing their journey on foot to Lukla. While roads have reached the centers of other local levels within the district, Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality is an exception, with the road yet to reach its center.

Lhakpachiri Sherpa, the spokesperson for the rural municipality, said that efforts are underway to expedite road expansion, aiming to reach the municipality HQ within the current fiscal year. "Once the road extends to Lukla, it will simplify the travel for tourists exploring the Everest region. They won't be dependent solely on air services, as they are now. Therefore, the local government is making concerted efforts to connect Lukla by road at the earliest,” Sherpa said.

More than 928 tons of cargo transported to Khumbu

Over 928 tons of cargo has been successfully transported to Lukla in Solukhumbu in the year 2023. Panthi said that a total of 928,984 kilograms, equivalent to 928.98 tons, of various materials, including food, construction supplies, and clothing, were transported to the airport situated in Khumbu Pasang Lhamu Rural Municipality-2.

“Since the road does not reach Lukla, the air service has become a reliable means of transporting materials in that area,” said Mingachiri Sherpa, chairman of the rural municipality. The branch said that the materials were transported by airplanes and helicopters.