Kathmandu, August 22, 2016: Tourist arrivals to Nepal jumped 12.77 percent in the first six months of 2016, showing incipient signs that the tourism industry is stirring back to normal after suffering a series of disasters last year.
According to Department of Immigration statistics, Nepal received 313,512 tourists in the first half this year, against 277,992 in the same period a year ago. Despite the rise, the arrivals are still low as compared to previous years. In 2014, the country had received 412,461 tourists in the first six months.
However, travel trade entrepreneurs are expecting a significant rise in the number of tourists for the peak autumn season (September-November) backed by the resumption of normal flight frequency of international carriers from next month.
Almost all foreign carriers were forced to halve their flight frequency after last yearâ€™s earthquakes and subsequent aviation fuel shortage at the Tribhuvan International Airport. â€œAs visitor numbers will depend on better flight connectivity, increased flight frequency is expected to bring the buzz back to the industry,â€ said Hari Sarmah, CEO of Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents.
He said travel associations and Nepal Tourism Board has been marketing Nepal in a big way for the upcoming tourist season. â€œIf there is no disturbance, the number of tourists this year is expected to touch 2014 levels,â€ he said.
Tourist arrivals to Nepal fell to a six-year low of 538,970 in 2015. 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 Nepalâ€™s tourism industry, with the arrivals plunging 55.59 percent to 97,510 during the four-month period (May-August) following the disaster. The department statistics show the arrivals in January, March and April had dropped this year. However, it jumped sharply in May and June by 154 percent and 100 percent respectively.
Country-wise, arrivals from India increased 37.62 percent to 54,224 in the first six months of this year.Â However, arrivals from China dipped 28 percent to 33,991. Nepal has implemented on-arrival visa fee-free policy for Chinese tourists to boost arrivals from the northern neighbour since January, but results have not been satisfactory.
Travel trade entrepreneurs attributed the fall in the number of Chinese tourists to lower flight frequency of Chinese carriers. But they are now returning to normal. China Southern Airlines has announced daily flights between Guangzhou and Kathmandu from September 1, and the frequency will be upped to double daily flights from October 30. After last yearâ€™s disaster and fuel crisis, the carrier had cut its frequency to three flights weekly.
China Eastern Airlines, which connects Kathmandu with Kunming, is planning to boost its frequency to daily from three flights weekly from October. Another Chinese airline, Air China, currently operates nine flights weekly to Nepal.
Meanwhile, tourist arrivals from the US, UK and Sri Lanka jumped 47.40 percent, 40.19 percent and 22 percent respectively in the first six months of 2016. The arrivals from Korea, Japan, France and Bangladesh rose slightly.
The arrivals from Germany jumped 158 percent to 9,673, but those from Thailand, Myanmar and Australia recorded a negative growth.
By Sangam Prasain