Foreigners arriving at TIA get free sim cards

- Post Report, Kathmandu

Mar 3, 2016-

The government is offering free sim cards to foreign travellers arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) as a gesture in hospitality. The sim card, which allows them to use the phone, has a Rs50 balance and has been pre-activated by Nepal Telecom.

Minister of Information and Communication Sherdhan Rai launched the scheme on Wednesday by providing free sim cards to a foreign couple at TIA. The plan is a joint initiative of Nepal Telecom and the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB). 

“We believe that this initiative will help promote Nepal as a safe destination which starts with good communication right from the airport,” said Sarad Pradhan, media consultant at the NTB. 

Along with the sim card, tourists are given a “I am in Nepal Now” selfie card with important contact details in Nepal.  According to Pradhan, they plan to expand the scheme to trekkers travelling to remote destinations in the country in 

the second phase. 

The board has planned to distribute free sim cards to trekkers along with the Trekkers’ Information Management System (TIMS) to address safety concerns and help rescue efforts. Foreigners are required to obtain a TIMS card before setting off for trekking in any part of Nepal.

Tourist arrivals to Nepal fell to a six-year low of 538,970 in 2015 as the April 25 earthquake and subsequent Tarai unrest kept visitors away, according to the statistics of the Department of Immigration. 

Nepal received 251,148 less tourists last year, representing a sharp drop of 31.78 percent compared to the 2014 figure. The impact of the killer quake was bigger for Nepal’s tourism industry with arrivals plunging 55.59 percent to 97,510 during the four-month period (May-August) following the disaster.

Nepal has launched a number of initiatives to revive its flagging tourism industry. In January, the government began issuing free visa on arrival to Chinese tourists. The northern neighbour is a major source market for Nepal after India. 

Likewise, on Monday, the Cabinet okayed the Tourism Ministry’s proposal to extend the climbing permits of hundreds of mountaineers who had been forced to abandon their expeditions last year due to avalanches on the Himalaya triggered by the April 25 earthquake. The validity of the permits will be extended until 2017.

Last year, 103 teams consisting of 801 individuals had received permits to climb various peaks in the Himalaya. Among them, 357 mountaineers including 18 Nepalis had obtained permits to climb Everest.

Published: 03-03-2016 09:00

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