Tourism in 2079 BS: Increasing influx of foreign tourists instills hopes of reviving COVID-19 marred tourism

Published On: April 13, 2023 05:45 PM NPT By: RSS

KATHMANDU, April 13: The country witnessed the arrival of around 100,000 foreign tourists throughout the month of March, the largest number since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country toward the end of 2019. 

The encouraging inflow of foreign tourists has revived the hopes of bringing the tourism industry that was marred by the deadly infection back on track, say the stakeholders. According to the data maintained by the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), 99,426 foreign tourists visited Nepal in March 2023. 

The influx of foreign tourists has increased since the beginning of the year 2023. A total of 55,074 tourists visited Nepal in January, and 73,255 in February. A total of 1,197,091 foreign visitors arrived in 2019, just before the virus struck.

In the following years, the number sharply dropped 81 percent in 2020 to 230,085, and to 150,962 in 2021. The Nepali year, 2079, has overall been the year of the revival of tourism, and increasing inflow of tourists has encouraged, said NTB Director Maniraj Lamichhane.

 "Overall, 2079 BS has been satisfactory in terms of tourism. The influx of tourists has been on 

the upward spiral in each preceding month. The arrival of tourists has increased since mid-July, 2022. Each preceding month saw over 70 percent increments in the arrival of tourists. Around 80 percent revival has taken place towards the end of 2079 BS," he said. 

The mobility of domestic tourists has also increased, according to him. In 2078 BS and 2079, the mobility of tourists increased around 120 and 130 percent respectively, he said.

In the year 2079 BS, tourism infrastructures were added. The investment in hotels and restaurants soared and the entry of international chain hotels began.

Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN) First Vice-president Binayak Shah said the year 2079 BS was overall encouraging for the tourism industry. As he said, his community assessed the period as the "Year of Tourism Improvement". Lately, the arrival of tourists and the trend of hotel booking are positive and it should be further increased. He was of the opinion of promoting air connectivity and strengthening rural roads. 

The year brought hope for the mountaineering sector as well. Director general of the Department of Tourism, Hom Prasad Luitel said  512  people have taken permissions for the climbing of 21 peaks in the spring season, 2079 BS and the  revenue collection stood at Rs 310.03 million and of them, the highest  number of climbers are for  Mt Everest, 60 for Lhotse and 56 for Annapurna expedition. 

Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents ( NATTA) President Ramesh Thapa evaluates that the year 2079 BS remained as  the 'improvement year for the tourism  industry',  sending encouragement to the tourism sector. 

Foreign tourist arrivals are increasing gradually. International flights suspended with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic have been resumed. The number of Chinese tourists in Nepal has soared with China easing travel restrictions for its citizens and all this has raised hope in the business, according to Luitel.  

In the view of Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal (TAAN) President Nilhari Bastola, the year 2079 BS was overall encouraging for the tourism business. "The latest improvement in the tourism indices suggests the business is booming." 

A significant number of Chinese tourists have started visiting Nepal, which was almost stopped for around three years due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Chinese government has included Nepal in its list of destinations for its citizens and travel agencies have started selling packages to Chinese tourists for Nepal visit from March 15. 

One hundred eight Chinese tourists arrived in Nepal on a chartered flight of Himalaya Airlines today, the last day of this year. 

As per the details of the Nepal Tourism Board, 2,635 tourists visited Nepal in May, 2,266 in February and 1,436 in January 2023. 

A total of 169,543 Chinese tourists had entered Nepal in 2019. It is expected that the number of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal would increase as Nepal-China flights are now in operation. Three different airlines of China have been making flights to and from Nepal and Himalaya Airlines has been operating flights to different destinations of China from Nepal. 

According to the Department of Industry, commitment of around Rs 24 billion investment has been received for the establishment of 56 different hotels and restaurants from April 14, 2022 till date where 4,221 people would get employment.

Similarly, commitment of investment of Rs 9.41 billion has been received from different countries in the hotel and restaurant sector. 

Chairperson of the Hotel Association Nepal Binayak Shah said there are a total of 10,000 hotels from five-star to tourist-level in Nepal. More than one dozen five-star hotels are going to be added within the next one and a half years. Around 4,000 hotels are affiliated with HAN.

A leap in aviation infrastructure 

The year 2079 BS was a year of achievement in terms of construction of aviation infrastructure. Two international airports were added in the country this year. The Gautam Buddha International Airport was inaugurated on May 16, 2022 as the second international airport while the Pokhara Regional International Airport on January 1, 2023 as the third international airport of the country.

However, international flights have not been operated out of Pokhara International Airport and the Bhairahawa airport, too, has not witnessed satisfactory business. 

Three international airports, including Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), are in operation in the country at present.

A number of domestic airports have been upgraded. Night flights are operating in the hub airports in the Terai region. The operation time of domestic sector flights has been extended to 18 hours daily while the international airports are operational round the clock.

CAAN's activeness for strengthening aviation safety 

The Tara Air plane crash in Mustang on May 29, 2022 and the Yeti Airlines air crash in Pokhara on January 15, 2023 added challenges to air safety in Nepal. Recently on April 9, a helicopter belonging to Heli Everest which was returning to Pokhara from Dhaulagiri base camp crashed and incidents as technical glitches in Shree Airlines aircraft on flight have indicated the need for further strengthening aviation safety in Nepal. 

The regulatory body, CAAN, too, has sprung into action in making the aviation sector safe and efficient. CAAN has shown its concern through various ways and means to make improvements in the services of the domestic and international airline companies operating in Nepal in order to render them secure and reliable. 

It has taken action against pilots not fulfilling the flight standards and those showing negligence during flight. The regulatory body has issued necessary directives to the airlines after studying their financial and managerial capacity. CAAN has carried out inspection and investigation, and brought to book some companies in a bid to promote abidance of aviation safety standards and improving the quality of service.

In recent months alone, it has been carrying out inspections on the service and flight operation of more than a dozen airlines and taking necessary action against the erring ones.



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