KATHMANDU, Feb 2: The coronavirus outbreak in China and the country's restriction on group travel for its citizens is likely to affect the target set by the government in bringing 500,000 Chinese tourists to Nepal. The government is now looking into to attract tourists from other countries to fulfill the gap caused by the slump in Chinese tourists' arrival to Nepal.
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai, in an interaction program with tourism stakeholders on Saturday said, “We should look into possibilities of fulfilling the gap produced due to the drop in the Chinese tourists' arrival to Nepal.” China has the second-largest share of tourists coming to Nepal, while India stands in the first position. “As a major source of tourists, we had plans of bringing in 500,000 Chinese tourists to Nepal this year but with the epidemic spreading across the country, it will be difficult to fill in the quota,” he said, “For the time being, we should rather focus on where should the supply fulfillment can be done from?”
Speaking at the program, Khum Bahadur Subedi, president of Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN) said that the tourists in fear of coronavirus transmission have cancelled their trips to Nepal. “March and April is the season when tourists' arrival starts growing so we need to be prepared in a way that is helpful in the upcoming season.”
Instead of letting Nepal's tourism industry be affected negatively, Minister Bhattarai said that the situation can be an opportunity for tourism entrepreneurs. “Tourists wanting to visit China can be diverted to Nepal,” he said, “We need to disseminate the message that Nepal is not risky and is safe to travel.”
Bhattarai also directed the Ministry's joint secretary, Department of Tourism and Nepal Tourism board (NTB) to submit a report on possible international markets that can be ventured to fill the gap of Chinese tourists within three days. He has asked them to collaborate with the private sector to get effective result.
The government has asked NTB and Visit Nepal Year 2020 secretariat to prepare advertisements for tourists. “Previously we had prepared our promotional materials targeting Chinese tourists but now we need to contextualize as per the demands in probable markets like Asian and Arabian countries.”
Sagar Dahal, the chief of Health Emergency and Disaster Management Unit (HEDMU) under the Ministry of Health and Population, said that Nepal has detected only one case of coronavirus and the infected person has been cured. “Other five cases came out negative, so there is no need to panic,” he said, adding, “World Health Organization (WHO) has not issued travel and trade restriction, so it should not hamper the tourism industry of Nepal.”
In a press statement issued on Saturday, the Embassy of China in Nepal said that the number of Chinese tourists to Nepal will be affected due to the recent situation. "After the epidemic is under control, we will continue to encourage more Chinese tourists to visit Nepal and contribute to the 2020 Visit Nepal Year," read the statement.