Over 600,000 foreigners visit Nepal in 2022 as tourism industry rebounds

Published On: January 4, 2023 12:48 PM NPT By: Sajira Shrestha

Arrival of tourists from US stands second after India

KATHMANDU, Jan 4: With the declining number of COVID-19 cases in Nepal, the tourism sector is slowly returning back on track. According to the data published by Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), more than 600,000 tourists visited Nepal in 2022 against 230,085 visitors in 2020. 

This shows that the arrival of tourists in 2022 is showing improvement after almost two years of slump due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tourism entrepreneurs are excited about the increasing number of tourists after the pandemic. Earlier, the hotel occupancy rate was almost nil except for a few guests. However, at present, hotels are seen occupied with domestic as well as international tourists. 

“The arrival of 600,000+ tourists in the year 2022 is encouraging for Nepali tourists. This also gives us an indication of how the arrival of international tourists will gradually increase in 2023 and in the coming years,” said Binayak Shah, the first vice president of the Hotel Association Nepal (HAN).

According to Shah, at present, every country is dependent on tourism, be it a developed or a developing country as it is one of the quickest ways for economic recovery in the post-pandemic period. 

“At present, most of the tourism destinations across the world are reeling under the problem due to a limited number of tourists. How a nation prepares for the development of their tourism sector plays a vital role,” Shah added.

According to the World Bank, the tourism sector contributes 6.7 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP), while its total impact was US$ 2.2 billion. In addition, in 2019, tourism supported over one million direct and indirect jobs, or 6.7 percent of total employment. Approximately 80 percent of these jobs are in the most remote and resource-constrained regions.   

Based on the number of tourists who visited Nepal, the largest number of tourists came from neighboring India. According to the statistics of NTB, more than 200,000 tourists from India entered Nepal in 2022 (January-December). Out of a total of 614,148 tourists who visited Nepal, 209,105 tourists entered Nepal from India alone. This is about 35 percent of the total visitors. The data includes the tourists via air route only.

Similarly, the United States ranks second in terms of tourist arrivals. More than 77,000 tourists entered Nepal in 2022 from the USA. This is 14 percent of the total number. The UK ranks third in terms of tourist arrival followed by Australia and Bangladesh. A total of 44,700 tourists visited Nepal from the UK, 26,800 from Australia, and 25,300 tourists from Bangladesh in 2022.

HAN’s First Vice President Shah said that the tourism sector is eagerly watching if the new government will implement the concept of Tourism Decade forwarded by the previous government.

“With the formation of a new government, political leaders at present are busy in power-sharing deals. The previous government has declared the Tourism Decade (2023-2032) for the promotion of tourism in the post-pandemic period. Thus, the major challenge here is to see whether the new government will be stable or not. Similarly, will the new government take ownership of the programs brought by the previous government also is the biggest question.”

Shah also mentioned that Nepal is in need of mega international events to promote tourism in the post-pandemic era. 

“We are ready to welcome tourists across the world at present. Therefore, Nepal needs mega events of international standard to show the world that we are ready to welcome them. Our first priority should be on how to promote Nepal in the international market.”

In 2022, Nepal saw the highest number of tourists visiting the country in the month of October followed by November and December. In October, 88,582 tourists visited Nepal while 72,653 tourists arrived here in November and 67,932 in December. However, in the beginning of 2022, tourism-related activities were not very encouraging. In January 2022, only 16,975 tourists arrived in Nepal followed by 19,766 tourists in February.

The previous government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba had prepared a strategic action plan with the concept of Nepal Tourism Decade 2023-2032 to revive the tourism sector of Nepal.

The action plan has set a target to bring in 3.5 million foreign tourists a year by 2032. It also aims to create employment opportunities for more than one million people in the tourism sector during the decade.

As per the action plan, province and national-level campaigns would be launched for tourism promotion across the country by upgrading infrastructures. There are also plans for massive investment and promotion of tourism in a bid to revive this sector.

The arrival of tourists, which has been sluggish in the past two years, is gradually returning to the rhythm since last year. Since the effects of the pandemic have been seen again in neighboring countries like India, China and South Korea for the past few weeks, questions have been raised about the possibility of its impact on Nepal's tourism and how the country will work to solve the problem. 

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