Nepali outbound stalls as economy heads downhill

- Sangam Prasain, Kathmandu

Oct 25, 2015-

Jet-setting Nepalis have had to shelve their foreign vacation plans as slowed economic growth and a drop in business activities have eaten into their incomes, leaving them with less cash to spend on pleasure trips.

The October-November period is the peak season for Nepali outbound as hordes of thrill seekers travel abroad making use of the long holidays during the Dashain and Tihar festivals.

Travel agencies dealing in outbound packages said that the country’s deteriorating business environment had affected the travel plans of Nepali holidaymakers who usually steer course for Thailand, Malaysia, Dubai, Mauritius, India and Singapore during this time of the year.

“The growth of outbound movement this year has slowed beyond our expectations,” said Hari Man Lama, chairman of the Incentive Group of Companies. “As the country’s business activities are not looking good due to a series of misfortunes, the incomes of affluent Nepali travellers have also been hit.”

The Incentive Group of Companies has sent 43 tour groups abroad this year. Nepal’s outbound segment had been growing rapidly with an increase in the standard of living and disposable income. Until a few years ago, foreign vacation trips were limited to rich people and business executives. In recent years, a large number of middle-class people have also started going abroad to enjoy their holidays, thanks to affordable travel packages and easy visa processing.

“Both inbound and outbound travel movement have been hit by problems in Nepal this year, but we are hopeful that travel movement in both sections will jump once the issues are settled,” Lama said.

According to Purnesh Shrestha, tour sales officer at President Travel and Tours, outbound bookings this year have reached last year’s level. He said that his company had sent around 250 Nepalis holidaymakers abroad, particularly to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Dubai.

“Of the total number, around 70 percent have gone to Thailand,” he said. Its four-night, five-day package to Thailand including airfare and taxes costs Rs58,000. He said that they had expected visitor numbers to increase this year, but the Tarai unrest, earthquake and fuel shortages in Nepal had taken a toll on outbound travel.

Neeli Shah, outbound marketing executive of Natraj Tours & Travels, said that outbound travel bookings had slowed this year compared to last year. Although the number of bookings is at the same level as last year, many travellers this year have asked for shorter trips and cheaper accommodation.

Star Cruise vacation packages that start from Singapore and cruise to Malaysia and Thailand have been gaining popularity among Nepalis, Shah said. Prices of a three-night, four-day Star Cruise ocean view cabin package start at $565 per person. Thailand, Malaysia and Bali tours are the most sought after packages. Natraj Tours & Travels has sold 95 packages so far.  Besides these traditionally popular destinations, the new vacation places topping the list for travellers from landlocked Nepal are China, France, Turkey, Egypt and Indonesia, according to travel executives.

According to the statistics compiled by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, there were 27,679 Nepali vacationers going abroad in 2009 and 21,899 in 2008. The number rose to 29,904 in 2010, and Nepali departures for holiday jumped to 32,063 in 2011. Outbound travel rose 22.47 percent to 39,269 departures in 2012, but dropped to 32,696 in 2013.

Published: 25-10-2015 08:42

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