Despite a growing sense of political instability, Nepal’s tourism sector has shown positive growth<br>DEBESH ADHIKARI

April 3, 2012, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol. : 05 No.-18 Mar. 30 -2012 (Chaitra 17,2068)<br>

What tourism entrepreneur and national coordinator of Nepal Tourism Year 2011 Yogendra Shakya said during the closing ceremony of NTY 2011 seems to be coming true. Talking to media person, Shakya had said the investment made in NTY 2011 would bear the fruit for days to come as the year helped to market Nepal’s image abroad.

Although the lack of promotional activities about NTY 2011 hindered Nepal from achieving the 1 million tourists’ goal. Still promotional activities which started at the last minute, made great impacts.

Aditya Baral, spokesperson of the Nepal Tourism Board, said there had been persistent growth in the tourists arrival, particularly of the Chinese. Nepal has immense prospects of attracting the Chinese tourists and  the country has been unable to reap the benefits fully.

“There is a need for collaboration between the private and public sectors to boost tourism in Nepal,” he said.

Nepal needs to do more to attract a million tourists this year. Prime Minister Dr. Baburam Bhattarai has also recently publicly accepted that the lack of aircraft with Nepal Airlines is making deep and serious negative impacts on the Nepalese tourism sector.

Despite lack of aircraft, in January and February of this year, tourist arrivals increased by around 20 percent compared to the same period last year. According to the Immigration Office, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), some 84,747 tourists arrived in Nepal in the first two months through airways.

Among the two neighbors, India continued to dominate the numbers, and registered a growth rate of 29.2, 28.8 percent respectively in January and February over the same period last year. The number of Chinese tourists also saw a whopping rise of 107 percent in January when compared with the last year. Some 6,631 Chinese tourists visited the nation. But, in contrast, in February, the number decreased by 23.1 percent than that of previous year.

Tourist arrivals from the other Asian countries, Europe and America were also very encouraging and were mostly on a rising trend.

Experts say the carryover effects of Nepal Tourism Year 2011 and the Visit Lumbini campaign are the main reasons for very encouraging arrival of tourists in the first two months of the year.

January and early February are considered as one of the lowest tourist seasons. Hence, tourism industrialists seem very excited from the positive tourist arrivals in one of the lowest tourist arrival periods and are optimistically looking up to the main season, which starts from March.

According to Hotel Association Nepal, the occupancy in five star hotel rooms will be more than 80 percent for this March and April.

According to the data, till the first week of March, star hotel’s capacity will be pushed to the limits for these two months. This rise is 10-15 percent more than previous year. In March of previous year, only around 68 percent of the eight five star hotels were used, whereas in April the number rose to around 74 percent, according to the Tourism Ministry.

The ticket booking to the major tourist destinations of the country is also encouraging and the domestic airlines are planning to increase the number of flights for this tourist season. According to airlines companies, 90 percent of air tickets on Pokhara-Kathmandu-Pokhara route have also been booked till May.

Forbes magazine’s recent listing of Mount Everest in the top Ten Stunning Travel Destinations around the world has made sure that Nepalese tourism will be one of the talking points in the international markets and will definitely arouse interests among the concerned travelers and aid in the promotion of Nepal.

But still the main questions will always be -- will 2012 overshadow the tourists’ arrival of 2011? Will Visit Lumbini Year 2012 be a bigger success than Nepal Tourism year 2011?

Only time will tell.

But as the year kicked off, Lumbini has comfortably beaten NTY 2012, at least in the first two months.  

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