Chinese arrivals expected to jump

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Jan 14, 2016-

Chinese tourist numbers are expected to rebound slightly this February as hordes of holidaymakers from the northern neighbour have planned to visit Nepal to celebrate the weeklong traditional Chinese New Year festival which starts February 8. Travel agencies said that the potential upswing was being

reflected in airline bookings.

According to Osho Wold Travel Nepal, a leading travel agency, Air China has recorded full bookings on incoming flights from mid-January to February-end.

Likewise, China Eastern Airlines has recorded over 80 percent bookings until February-end. Air China and China Eastern currently operate three weekly flights to Kathmandu.

Bookings on Sichuan Airlines have crossed 60 percent and are growing gradually. Sichuan flies twice weekly.Meanwhile, Hong Kong-based Dragon Air has announced it will be doubling its flight frequency to six weekly from January 29. Dragon has recorded more than 80 percent bookings until February 10.

Nepal Airlines has recorded advance bookings of more than 70 percent on its incoming flights from mid-January to mid-February, according to the booking records of travel agencies.

However, China Southern Airlines, which had temporarily suspended its Guangzhou-Kathmandu flights on September 29, 2015, has not announced resuming its services yet.Deepak Basnet, ticketing executive of Osho World Travel, said that Nepal’s government policy to waive visa fees for Chinese

tourists had encouraged them to visit Nepal. The Chinese government has also lifted the negative travel advisory issued after the earthquake.

“At a time when traveller bookings from other source markets have not been good, arrivals from China have been expected to rebound strongly,” Basnet said, adding that the Chinese government had also been encouraging its citizens to visit Nepal.

However, flight frequency remains a problem. Kishore Raj Pandey, chairman of Saathi Nepal Travel and Tours, said that unlike other months, February is the prime season for the Chinese people to travel due to their weeklong holiday,

and Nepal would also get a portion of the outbound.“Arrivals will increase to some extent, but not to the level seen in the last couple of years,” he said. “Given the reduced flight frequency, we do not expect a dramatic upsurge.”Before the April 25 earthquake, Chinese carriers used to operate 35 weekly flights to Nepal.

Airlines from the northern neighbour started to raise the frequency after the earthquake, but the fuel crisis forced them to cut flights again.

This time the frequency reduction was big. “The flight frequency has dropped to eight weekly flights from 35,” said Pandey, the first person to bring Chinese tourists to Nepal in 2002.

“Unless Chinese carriers resume full operations, we cannot expect a large number of tourists from the north,” he said. “And unless the Nepal government provides refuelling facilities, airlines are not in a position to resume full operations.”

Due to refuelling problems, a load penalty on Chinese carriers

persists. On an average, incoming flights from China are forced to fly with 20 empty seats.Many foreign carriers that have reduced their Nepal frequency due to refuelling problems are waiting for the situation to improve, said Basnet.

Delhi airfares drop sharply

Airfares have dropped sharply on the Delhi-Kathmandu route as airlines compete to fill empty seats. Kathmandu-based travel agencies said that carriers like Air India, Nepal Airlines, Jet Airways and Indigo Air have been offering a large number of seats at cut rates. Normally, carriers offer five to seven seats at the lowest fare. However, due to a sharp drop in passenger numbers, airlines have opened more than 40 percent of the seats at such fares. A seat on the Delhi-Kathmandu flight now costs Rs8,500, Rs8,200 and Rs8,400 on Air India, Nepal Airlines and Indigo Air respectively. However, the lowest fare of Jet Airways is Rs10,400, according to agencies. Normally, during this period, airlines used to charge Rs14,000-Rs15,000.

Published: 14-01-2016 09:27

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