Kathmandu, March 13, 2017: The country’s hotel occupancy rate has improved in the spring season (March to May) for the first time after the earthquake of April 25, 2015, along with the rise in the inflow of tourists.
Tourist standard hotels have been operating at 60 per cent occupancy rate, according to Hotel Association Nepal (HAN), an umbrella body of tourist standard hotels in the country. Hoteliers have said that if the inflow of tourists is realised as per the bookings for the coming autumn season, which is considered the main tourist season, tourist arrivals will surely mark a record this year. A high volume of tourist inflow was witnessed in 2012 when a total of 803,000 travellers visited Nepal.
Chinese and Indian tourists contribute a significant share in the total number of tourists coming to Nepal. According to Binayak Shah, secretary general of HAN, the number of religious tourists from South India may increase if Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) effectively promotes the country there. “Many South Indian families want to visit Nepal but they still have some misgivings on anti-Indian feelings in Nepal, which needs to be dispelled to attract more tourists,” he said.
Expanded flight network of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) to India has made airfare relatively cheaper than earlier as international airlines operating on Kathmandu-Delhi, Kathmandu-Mumbai and other sectors have started competing on rates with NAC.
“The national flag carrier’s immediate plan to expand to Guangzhou of China is also expected to increase competition regarding fares with Chinese airline companies and provide relatively cheaper and reliable service for Chinese tourists in the days to come,” Shah opined. “Congestion in the country’s only international airport and the high airfare are the major bottlenecks for bringing more tourists in the country.”
Infrastructure bottlenecks should be addressed at the earliest to materialise the country’s vision to bring two million tourists annually by 2020. The private sector has prepared itself towards that direction to accommodate two million tourists per year as global hotel chains are all set to come into operation, according to hoteliers. Numerous training programmes for human resources to enhance quality of service have been initiated as well, as HAN has urged the hotels within its network to improve the quality of food, according to Shah.
Hoteliers have urged the government to expedite infrastructure development, which is critical to translate the vision into action. “We will not be able to translate the vision into action until and unless the government prepares public infrastructure facilities like airports, among others, which will in turn help to easily handle the increased tourist flow,” Shah said.
However, infrastructure development has been moving at a very slow pace. Expansion of Tribhuvan International Airport, the country’s only international airport, which was expected to have been completed by 2018 has been extended to 2021 due to the re-tender process that was initiated recently. Private sector entrepreneurs have criticised the government for not being serious about public infrastructure to achieve the target of attracting two million tourists annually.