Published On: February 10, 2023 10:30 AM NPT By: Santosh Pokharel
POKHARA, Feb 10: The Nepali tourism industry had been making good profits from the tourists arriving in the country from its two immediate neighbors India and China. Until a few years ago, the tourism entrepreneurs were quite happy as enough tourists would come from India and China and the addition of domestic tourists and visitors from other countries would ensure enough income for them. The entrepreneurs would be even happier as the tourists from India and China would die to visit Pokhara.
However, the spread of the coronavirus led to a sudden decrease in foreign tourist arrivals. During the pandemic, the number of visitors from third countries fell to single digits per month. As the infection rate has subsided now, tourists from other countries have resumed traveling to Nepal, but those from China have yet to return. Despite the absence of restrictions on visiting Nepal for Indian tourists, the Chinese government has not lifted restrictions for its citizens. This has caused concern among tourism professionals.
The Pokhara chapter of Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN) has urged the Embassy of China in Kathmandu to take initiatives to include Nepal in its tourist destination list. In a request letter sent to the Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Chen Song, HAN’s President Laxman Subedi stated that tourism entrepreneurs are ready and hopeful to welcome Chinese tourists in Nepal in 2023.
Subedi noted that after a three-year halt on foreign travel due to Covid, China announced that its citizens will be able to visit 20 countries, but Nepal was not included. In a letter addressed to the embassy, Subedi stated that the Chinese Ministry of Tourism had listed 20 countries for its citizens to visit, but Nepal was not among them. He requested that Nepal be included in this list to aid the revival of the Nepali tourism industry, which has suffered from the impact of Covid-19.
According to the data of the Ministry of Tourism, 1,53,633 Chinese tourists came to Nepal in 2018; 1,69,543 in 2019; 19,257 in 2020; 6,019 in 2021 and 9,524 in 2022. The number of Chinese guests entering Nepal in the first month of 2023, January, is 1,431.
“China has banned Chinese tourists from visiting Nepal. As a result, Chinese tourists could not come to Nepal even if they wanted to,” says Pomnarayan Shrestha, chairman of the Pokhara Tourism Council (PTCC). Shrestha said that initiatives should be taken to bring in Chinese tourists. He said that even if the guests are unable to come due to the coronavirus, precautions can be taken.
According to entrepreneurs , Chinese guests like the Pokhara tour very much. Entrepreneurs have been saying that Chinese tourists come to Pokhara to paraglide in the skies of Pokhara. According to entrepreneurs , about 90 percent of the Chinese guests who entered Pokhara used to paraglide in the skies here, but now the tourism sector is at a loss due to the lack of Chinese tourists, Chairman Shrestha said.
In 2014, as many as 124,000 Chinese tourists came to Nepal. That number decreased to 65,000 in 2015 due to the earthquake, but in 2016 and 2017, the number increased. The main season for Chinese tourists to come to Nepal is March-April. They walk in groups. Most travel in packages only. They enjoy shopping and sky adventure activities (ultralight, paragliding). Currently, there are about one and a half dozen hotels and restaurants serving only Chinese tourists in Pokhara.
China gives special permission for its citizens to visit countries. Nepal is also in China's 'Approved Destination Status (ADS)'. Being on ADS is like allowing its citizens to travel to that country. When a small number of Chinese citizens were entering Nepal, China placed Nepal in the 'ADS' in 2002. China gives special incentives to its citizens to visit ADS countries. Chinese citizens are a bit hesitant to travel to countries that do not have ADS.
Only after Nepal got ADS in 2002 did Chinese citizens start coming to Nepal as tourists. Before 2000, Chinese citizens were not allowed to visit Nepal as tourists. Before the year 2000, limited Chinese came to Nepal on 'official' visits
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