Tourist arrivals by air slip 0.3 percent

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu

Mar 11, 2015-

Tourist arrivals by air to Nepal dropped 0.3 percent to 585,981 in 2014 compared to 2013, largely due to reduced traveller movement from India and Europe, the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) said.

This is the second consecutive drop after recording sustained growth in international tourist arrivals since June 2009. Nepal received 544,985 tourists in 2011 and 598,204 in 2012, a rise of 9.8 percent over the previous year. In 2013, arrivals dropped 1.73 percent to 587,842.

Travel trade entrepreneurs said that a series of problems ranging from a blizzard and avalanche on the Annapurna Circuit trekking trail during the peak season last November and the closure of the casinos to a travel advisory by the European Commission (EC) warning its citizens not to fly on Nepali airlines dealt a severe blow to Nepal’s tourism. The EC said European operators and travel agents have to inform European travellers who will have a right to reimbursement if they had booked a seat on a Nepali carrier as part of a journey to Nepal and decide not to use it.

The board said that Nepal observed a sustained growth in international tourist arrivals in January, February, April and May but suffered a fall from June onwards.

“The decline suggests that Nepal needs to promote its tourism products in the international market more aggressively in order to increase tourist arrivals,” the board said. Arrivals from the southern neighbour that had swelled 13.3 percent in 2012 plunged 35.46 percent to 105,283 last year. Nepal received 57,859 less tourists from India last year.

Hari Sarmah, chief executive officer of the Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Natta), said that high airfares and the closure of the casinos in Nepal had discouraged Indian travellers from visiting Nepal.

However, he said that the tourism industry had been encouraged by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement during his visit to Nepal for the 18th Saarc Summit last November emphasizing the need to enhance connectivity between the two countries to boost tourism.

“We can expect 2015 to be a better year due to Modi’s declarations and substantial changes in India’s policy towards Nepal.”

Even though visitor numbers from India dropped significantly last year, arrivals from the northern neighbour maintained a double-digit growth. According to the statistics, arrivals from China soared 17.86 percent to 71,107 last year. With more airlines connecting China, tourism entrepreneurs said that China was poised to become the top tourist source market for Nepal soon. Meanwhile, Sichuan Airlines has announced plans to operate a daily service on the Chengdu-Lhasa-Kathmandu sector from April 1, which will make it the fourth Chinese carrier to link Nepal.

Likewise, start-up Himalaya Airlines plans to operate Kathmandu-Lhasa flights from this year.

Published: 12-03-2015 09:42

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