RASUWA, Oct 13: In the first nine months of 2018, a total 19,350 foreign tourists arrived in Nepal via the Rasuwagadhi border.
According to data compiled by Rasuwagadhi Immigration Office tourists from 52 different countries including China entered Nepal via the border from January to September this year.
Among the tourists, Chinese nationals comprise the highest number, 10,910, which is 56.38 percent of the total coming via this point, according to Laxmi Prasad Sharma, a senior officer at the Immigration Office.
Following China's announcement of Rasuwagadhi as international border point, the number of Chinese tourists coming to Nepal has been increased in recent times.
In the entire year of 2017, around 17,620 Chinese tourists had visited Nepal, while in 2016, only 4,961 Chinese tourists had come into Nepal via Rasuwagadhi.
According to data compiled by the Immigration Office, 585 foreign tourists had entered Nepal in January, 816 in February, 368 in March, 1,356 in April, 2,650 in May, 4,794 in June, 4,244 in July, 4,126 in August, and 4,011 in September.
In 2017, only 82 foreign tourists excluding Chinese tourists had come into Nepal via Rasuwagadhi.
Swedish nationals comprise the second largest number visiting Nepal via this border, while USA comes in third place.
As per a privilege provided by the Government of Nepal, Chinese tourists visit Nepal on free visa.
“We can provide free visa for 150 days to Chinese tourists visiting Nepal but most of the Chinese tourists are requesting 30-day visa only,” said Man Bahadur Baral, information officer at the Immigration Office.
However, almost 90 percent Chinese tourists receive visa in their own country before arriving Rasuwagadhi, he added.
“Most of the Chinese tourists get their visas issued from Lhasa and Guangzhou. Only around 10 percent get it from the Rasuwagadhi Immigration Office,” he told Republica.
The average length of stay of Chinese tourists in Nepal is 14 days. Most of them come to Nepal to visit Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Lumbini for trekking and religious purpose. Tourism entrepreneurs and the government have been making efforts in recent years to bring in more Chinese tourists.
According to the Department of Immigration, 2017 alone saw a total of 104,664 visitors from China. China is Nepal's second largest market for inbound tourism, after India. The government has implemented a visa-free regime for Chinese tourists since 2015.
Meanwhile, compared to the tourist flow in previous years, the number of tourists has been increasing immensely this year. A recent data released by Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) shows that nearly 100,000 tourists visited Nepal in September -- a rise by 33.8 percent compared to data of the same month of 2017.
According to the data, Nepal welcomed 91,820 foreign visitors in September 2018. The healthy rise in arrivals has propelled total arrivals during the January–September period to 772,798, which is a growth by 20 percent year-on-year.