China issues travel restriction to Nepal

  • Move could be a major setback for Nepali tourism that was seeing gradual growth
- ANIL GIRI, SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu

Dec 24, 2016-

China has issued a temporary travel restriction to Nepal for “some political issues” in India, according to multiple sources, in a surprise move that may be a major setback for Nepal’s tourism that was of late encouraged by the flow of Chinese tourists. 

 The Chinese government has asked its travel agencies and airlines to cancel all travel plans and bookings made until January 10 with immediate effect. The travel advisory has been circulated to the travel and tour operators and airlines in China by the Chinese government, but it has not been published in the Chinese government’s website, according to Nepal-based travel agents. 

Senior Nepal government officials, who came to know of the latest Chinese measures, said the move is aimed at restricting Tibetans from visiting India via Nepal to participate in the 34th Kalachakra Initiation scheduled for January 3-14 in Bodh Gaya, India. Dismissing any other reasons behind the move, they said there are indications that tourism traffic will resume after mid-January. 

Chinese officials in Tibet—in provinces like Sichuan, Qinghai and others—have urged residents not to visit Nepal, India and Bhutan, a notice issued in Chinese language obtained by the Post reads. “From now on, please cancel all visits of teams and individual clients to Nepal and India. We also urge all not make bookings and if anyone has bookings, please cancel or terminate…” the notice reads. It adds that those who are already visiting Nepal should immediately cancel their trips and return home. It has asked Chinese citizens to report to their respective airlines or tour operators. In case of confusion, the notice says, they should report to the Chinese homeland security department. Asked about the Chinese move, Foreign Secretary Shanker Das Bairagi said, “I have not seen the actual text issued by the Chinese government about the travel restriction.

“We have, however, communicated with our embassy in Beijing to verify the matter and let us know,” he told the Post. According to Tibetpost.com, Chinese officials have already started keeping a tight rein on those who wish to participate in the Kalachakra. Many Tibetans have already arrived in Nepal and India for pilgrimage in order to attend the religious ceremony, says the website. “The Chinese authorities are likely to have stepped up pressure on the Nepali authorities to keep tabs on Tibetans in transit through Nepal, including those with legitimate Chinese passports.”

Nepal’s Ambassador to Beijing, Leelamani Poudyal, who came to know about the matter from Kathmandu about the Chinese move, said in an email response that none of the Chinese offices like Public Security Bureau of China and Tourism Bureau had any information updated on their websites about the restrictions.

The Embassy of Nepal in Beijing also enquired with China’s Foreign Ministry about the Chinese measures, but the ministry also dismissed such move, saying that they do not need to take up such measures politically as Nepal follows and stands by one-China policy.

Some sources said that the move was taken some 15 days ago by the Chinese authorities in various provinces in China.

“It’s a serious issue on the eve of Chinese New Year,” said Bishwesh Shrestha, managing director of Shuang Qi Tours and C&K Nepal Treks, one of the major agencies handling Chinese tourists. Nepal receives major chunks of Chinese during the Chinese New Year that begins by the end of January.

“If the restriction is extended beyond mid-January, it’s going to be unfortunate for Nepal’s tourism industry this year too,” said Shrestha. “The government should take prompt initiative to resolve the issue.” 

Visitors from the northern neighbour are valued as they have helped to give a fillip to Nepal’s tourism industry after arrivals from the traditional European markets started trailing off due to political instability and a wobbly economy. 

On December 25, 2015, Nepal had announced free visa for Chinese tourists, giving them the same treatment accorded to Saarc visitors, in a bid to revive flagging arrivals hit by the 2015 earthquakes and subsequent trade embargo of India. The free visa fee scheme was implemented in January this year. 

According to the Department of Immigration, Chinese tourist arrivals dipped 28 percent to 33,991 in the first six months of 2016. However, travel trade entrepreneurs reported that arrivals started to jump sharply after key Chinese airlines connecting Nepal started to increase their flight frequency since September.

Published: 24-12-2016 07:55

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