Nepal’s tourism sector seeks boost from Indian and Chinese visitors

Published On: February 29, 2024 08:00 AM NPT By: Enika Rai

KATHMANDU, Feb 29: Nepal's tourism sector could experience growth by attracting a percentage of tourists from neighboring India and China.

Every year, around 200 million nationals from China and 100 million from India travel abroad. Businessmen stated that redirecting just 2 to 3 percent of these tourists to Nepal would significantly benefit the country’s tourism sector.

The majority of visitors to Nepal are Indian nationals. In 2023, a total of 319,936 Indian tourists arrived in Nepal by air, which accounts for 31.52 percent of the total tourists visiting Nepal. The figure is an increase of five percent compared to the period before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the data of the Department of Tourism.

Binayak Shah, President of the Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) said that the private sector has developed infrastructure capable of serving three times the current number of tourists.

“Attracting even a modest two percent of tourists from India and China will be sufficient for the country's tourism. This can be achieved by creating an effective plan and environment by the government.”

Currently, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) operates direct flights from Nepal to various cities in India, with more than 21 flights per week.

Direct air service is available from Nepal to major cities of India including Delhi, Banaras, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata. Also private airlines occasionally offer flights to different Indian cities. Similarly, Indian airlines like IndiGo, Air India, Vistara and others have regular flights to Nepal.

Sajan Shakya, secretary of HAN, highlighted the importance of international flights in bringing in tourists. “Tourists from India and China have potential to run our tourism sector,” he said, “If we can attract more tourists from India and China, the tourism sector will transform in a positive way.”

Shakya said that the private sector has done enough homework and contribution to the tourism sector. “We are building hotels, casinos, service oriented restaurants, organizing international meetings, conferences and events,” Secretary Shakya said, “Government should work effectively to bring in tourists like the private sector. Collaboration and cooperation is a must while formulating policies and during its implementation.”

He expressed concern over the lack of effective programs from the government to attract tourists, despite more than a year passing since the announcement of the tourism decade.

Due to the fact that Nepal is the closest country to India and China, the number of tourists from both countries is the highest. Also, Indian tourists benefit from visa-free entry and easy access to transport from the border areas.

The private sector has responded by building modern hotels, restaurants, casinos near the borders, targeting Indian tourists seeking entertainment.

Indian tourists are visiting Nepal for religious trips and cultural purposes.

Meanwhile, China only allowed its nationals to visit Nepal from March 2023, after the pandemic subsided. A total of 60,876 Chinese tourists have used air services to travel to Nepal.

Considering the large populations of India and China, the tourism sector could be strengthened from collaborative programs between the private sector and the government aimed at attracting tourists from these countries.

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