Luring the dragon

  • Tourism destinations in Nepal are busy, as more and more Chinese are arriving
- Aditya Baral
Luring the dragon

Apr 20, 2015-

Tourism between Nepal and China is not an old phenomenon; it gained prominence primarily after the signing of the Approved Destination Status (ADS) by these two countries in 2001. Nepal was the ninth country in the world to achieve ADS with China and first among South Asian countries, showing the importance China accords Nepal. In the year of the ADS signing, the number of Chinese tourists to Nepal was 8,738, which had climbed to over 123,000 by the end of 2013, second only to India.

Governments matter

One of the reasons in the increment of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal is the bonhomie between the two governments. China attaches great importance to Government-to-Government (G2G) relations. This determines its future policy. In contrast, democratic countries deal through Business-to-Business (B2B) relations or the diktats of market forces (demand and supply). In China, most entrepreneurial decisions are government approved, hence we rarely hear of bankruptcies, liquidations, and mergers for capital supplement there. Moreover, the cost of capital in China is comparatively low because of its huge trade surplus.   

Both countries have worked to protect each others’ interests. Nepal’s support for the ‘One China Policy’ has been the bastion of our foreign policy with China, irrespective of our form of government. Since media in China is controlled by the state, they repeatedly highlight Nepal’s positive aspects, particularly the visits made by their government heads or officials. This positive vibe has helped in healthy, cost-free promotion of our country in China.

Movies and menus

Moreover, many top Chinese film producers have started choosing Nepal as their filming destination. Up in the Wind was a blockbuster movie shot in many beautiful locations in Nepal, which no doubt inspired many Chinese to visit Nepal. It has also been learnt that China plans to send over a million Chinese tourists to Nepal in the coming years. Due to this colossal prospect, many Chinese airlines have doubled their flights and many newcomers are on their way to visiting Nepal.

Presently, with the addition of a few more airlines, the China-Nepal travel quota will soon be exhausted. This means newcomers from China will either have to force their government for the renewal of the Air Service Agreement (ASA) so that more flights can be arranged, or

they will have to vie for joint ventures with Nepali investors

by registering a company in Nepal. So far, very few have applied for additional seats, as there are great bottlenecks to be overcome.

With renewed optimism for investment and relative peace and stability over the last few years, many Chinese have shown interest in investing in the tourism and aviation industry. Tourism destinations in Nepal have been busy throughout, as more and more Chinese are arriving. It is surprising to see Jyatha (adjacent to Thamel, the hub of Nepali tourism) turning into a virtual China Town, with signboards and billboards all enticing Chinese tourists—in Chinese. Likewise, tourism towns in Nepal have transformed their menus and settings, again primarily aiming to lure more Chinese. They consume all kinds of services. For instance, if one looks at bungee jumping or paragliding bookings, they are all booked for weeks, mostly by Chinese tourists.

Bringing in more Chinese

We can bring in more tourists if Nepal’s national flag carrier, Nepal Airlines, resumes its flights to China or if the government grants other interested private players the right to fly to China. This is important to break the price monopoly. Kathmandu-Lhasa is one of the most expensive flights in the world, even though the route takes under an hour to cover. If such arbitrary pricing can be done away with, there is room for growth in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal.

Furthermore, if border hassles were removed, many would choose to travel by land. If we could cash in on our six decades of friendship and resume land movement, and with it, provisions for temporary driving licences for Chinese vehicles or start luxury bus services between cities of the two counties, there could be a surge in the number of budget travelers.

Nepal should also build an enticing Chinese complex within Lumbini to  commemorate the 60th year of our bilateral relations. This would make both sets of governments promote Lumbini as a must-visit site. What better way to celebrate our long friendship!

Published: 21-04-2015 10:02

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