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Nepal seeks access to Chinese airports

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Nov 14, 2018-

Nepal has asked China to allow Nepali carriers to fly to different Chinese cities as the government has set a target to significantly increase Chinese arrivals during the much-awaited Visit Nepal campaign version 3.0 in 2020 with the goal of attracting 2 million foreign tourists.

Currently, five Chinese carriers—Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Sichuan Airlines and Tibet Airlines—operate flights to Nepal. But no Nepali carrier serves China. The national flag carrier used to fly to Osaka, Japan via Shanghai, China until 2008 under fifth freedom rights.

On Tuesday, Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari met his Chinese counterpart Luo Shugang and requested him to allow Nepali carriers to land in different Chinese cities.

“Nepal’s national flag carrier’s Nepal Airlines newly acquired Airbus A330 has been underutilised. We request the Chinese government to create an environment for our carriers to land in different Chinese cities,” Ghanshyam Upadhyaya, spokesperson of the Ministry quoted minister Adhikari as saying.   

In 2015, national flag carrier Nepal Airlines applied for landing permission at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, but its application has yet to be approved.

Officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) suspect that Nepali carriers have been kept out of Chinese airports due to the significant safety concern (SSC) tag given to Nepal by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) in its audit report in 2013. Nepal, however, has recently been removed from ICAO’s bad books.

Some officials, however, said that Nepal Airlines has been told to wait until Beijing’s new international airport starts operation by September next year as there were no slots available at Guangzhou and Beijing airports.

The new airport is 67 km from the Beijing Capital International Airport. Upadhyaya said that the Minister also requested his Chinese counterpart to help Nepal make the Visit Nepal campaign a success. The first national tourism campaign was launched in 1998 when Nepal hosted 463,684 visitors, representing a growth of 10 percent. In 2011, the government launched another Nepal Tourism Year campaign with the goal of bringing 1 million tourists. Although actual arrivals fell short of the target, 736,215 tourists visited the country, a growth of 22 percent over the previous year.

Nepal has targeted to bring at least 500,000 Chinese tourists in 2020. “It’s vital to establish strong air connectivity with China to realise the campaign goal,” said Upadhyaya.  

In March, Nepali private carrier Himalaya Airlines had submitted an application at the Tourism Ministry with a plan to connect Chinese cities—Shanghai, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Changsha—that are key outbound markets with a high consuming capacity, after being refused landing permission in India.

Himalaya had asked the government to make arrangement of these routes which are not among the air routes specified in the Nepal-China bilateral air service agreement. However, no development has been made on the issue so far. Himalaya, however, has been conducting charter flights to Chongqing, a major tourist city in China.

According to the Department of Immigration, arrivals from China, the country’s second largest source market after India, totalled 104,664 individuals last year.

Published: 14-11-2018 09:23

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