Nepal expects 265,000 and 100,000 visitors from India and China respectively during Nepal Tourism Year 2011. The target is to bring in a total of one million tourists. About 590,000 tourists visited Nepal in 2010.
In Visit Nepal Year 1998, the aim of bringing 500,000 tourists remained unmet when only 398,008 tourists visited Nepal.
Tourism has become a burgeoning industry, with millions of people worldwide on the move. But there are few takers that Nepal will be actually bringing one million tourists in 2011.
"The government was planning to buy new airbuses so we aimed at one million tourists," Sarad Pradhan of NTB said,"but the recent Nepal Airlines scandal has hit the tourism industry hard.”
Nonetheless, Pradhan was optimistic as many new airlines started services for the tourism year.
Till the end of February, 2011, 16516 tourists from India flew in to Nepal. Likewise, 7396 tourists were here by air from China. Nepal has announced free visas for Chinese tourists in NTY 2011 and this too can increase their arrivals. However, this announcement was made some years back as well; but the government has to get around it this time.
Indian tourist arrivals grew 20.5 percent to 104,470 in 2010 from 86,696 in 2009.
The UN World Tourism Organization said China would become the world’s fourth-largest source of outbound tourists by 2020 with 100 million overseas visits. And it is up to Nepal whether and how to grab the opportunity of bringing the tourists or let the industry slacken further.
The Annual Report of China Outbound Tourism Development 2009-10 issued by the China Tourism Academy has estimated that 54 million Chinese travellers would go abroad in 2010, up from 47 million in 2009. In case of Nepal, Chinese arrivals were up 36.8 percent to 25,559 from 18,677 in 2009.
The existing air fares from China to Nepal are said to be the most expensive and even the route is a long distance one. So, this can be a major hindrance to achieve the target. However, the surface links need to be used much, which too can significantly, though not too much, increase the tourist arrivals.
If the government doesn't make a prompt talk with the China about the existing trail, the target to grab a pie from the Chinese tourism market seems farfetched or almost impossible.
But hope lingers as major tourist destinations of the country have seen a significant increase in the number of tourists in 2010. According to the Nepal Tourism Board, Indian tourists made up the largest segment visiting Pokhara last year. Tourists from India numbered 46,508 and China (9,501), too, had a significant contribution. Since, the comprehensive peace accord in 2006, tourism industry has seen a dramatic rise.
Ilam, too, has seen a rise in the number of Indian tourists. "There was a rise of tourists in the major tourist areas of Ilam: Sandakpur, Chintapuu,” a source said, "and we can expect more Indians here because places of Ilam borders the places of India with maximum flow of tourists back and forth."
Having completed its 30 years of service Hotel Summit is optimistic about meeting the goal of NTY 2011.
"Our 90% of the rooms are packed and the flow of tourist is satisfactory," Rudra Shrestha, front office manager of Summit said, "but we must not confine ourselves in the limited resources instead the government has to explore more and bring new schemes."
Shrestha, however, said that loadshedding has marred almost all the hotels of the valley and demanded a solution.
Royal Beach Camp (R.B.C), which looks after the adventure sports especially rafting, canoeing, too, is expecting increase in tourists. "There is a maximum participation of internal tourists in adventure sports. Nonetheless, we are expecting massive increase in the number of foreigners" a source from RBC said.
But what is NTB doing for the promotion of NTY 2011, especially in India and China?
"We have planned to promote NTY 2011 through the influential media of India," Pradhan said,"though we couldn't conduct promotional programmes in Shangai Expo due to technical difficulties, we now have been conducting various programmes in China, right away."
The promotion done so far seems only a drop of water in the sea of tourism.
And the country is sure to see increment of tourists as the major political parties' promise of making Nepal a safe destination with no bandh and chakkajam has, indeed, been fulfilled as the country has seen a drastic reduction in the number of such strikes or protests in 2011. And this needs to be strictly maintained in the days ahead if the nation is to lure more visitors.