Launched two months ago by a prominent Nepalese business group, led by Prithvi Bahadur Pande, with Tibet Airlines as partner, the decision of Himalaya Airlines to commence its flight within a week has given a good message about the country in the international tourism sector.
Promoted by Yeti World Investment and HIF Aviation Investment Company from Nepal and Tibet Airlines Ltd from the People´s Republic of China, this joint venture is the first of its kind, featuring a high amount of foreign investment.
As the government-owned Nepal Airline is gradually losing its credibility by flying with aging aircraft, there is a virtual monopoly of foreign airlines in Nepal’s market. Invested by Nepalese investors, Himalaya Airline will be the first national airline with the capability to compete with other foreign airlines.
“We are in process of receiving Air Operation Certificate (AOC) from the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) and will get it within a few weeks,” informed Chairman of HIF Aviation Investment Company Prithvi Bahadur Pande. “Flights will start soon after getting the AOC.”
During a function organized by the airlines in honor of Visiting Chairman of the Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People´s Republic of China Luosang Jiangcun, Pande said that Himalaya Airlines will make a significant contribution in tourism promotion of Nepal, China and Tibet.
As the number of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal is rising significantly, the commencement of flights will further increase the number of visiting tourists. Nepal was placed within the top ten destinations of the world visited by Chinese in the list prepared by China in 2002. “We will focus on bringing maximum numbers of Chinese tourists in Nepal, “said Pande.
According to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA), the number of Chinese tourists increased by 57.48 percent to 113,173 in 2013. In 2012, Nepal had welcomed 71,861 tourists from China. More than 92 percent of the tourists visiting the country in 2013 were first time visitors.
In recent years, China remains a major contributor in the tourism sector. “The establishment of the airlines took the relations between Nepal and China to a greater height,” said Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Wu Chuntai. “The Chinese government extends full support to these types of economic cooperation between Nepal and Tibet,” said Wu.
At a time when tourism entrepreneurs are demanding increase in the number of flights to bring more Chinese tourists and replace the declining number of European and American tourists, Himalaya Airlines will greatly contribute in the process.
“At a time when Nepal is seeking more foreign investment, Himalaya Airlines is the first big foreign investment in Nepal´s aviation industry with Chinese investment,” said Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat. “The increase in the arrival of Chinese tourists will contribute to our economy.”
Chairman of the Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People´s Republic of China Luosang Jiangcun said, “Himalaya Airlines will greatly contribute in the aviation sector of Nepal and Tibet."
Holding 30 percent of shares of Tibet Airlines, Air China will extend its full support to Himalaya Airlines. Established with an investment of Rs. 2.25 billion, Tibet Airlines holds 49 percent stake in the Company while HIF Aviation Investment and Yeti World Investment jointly own the remaining 51 percent.
Nepal is seeing a steady a rise in the number of Chinese tourists this season. According to tourism entrepreneurs, more than 60 percent of total foreign tourists visiting the country, excluding Indians, are from China.
Tourism entrepreneurs say the number of tourists from Europe and the Americas has not increased much in the absence of marketing and promotion by Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and the fear of Ebola. Looking at the arrivals trend, they say the number of Chinese tourists will increase by at least 30 percent in 2014.
The number of Chinese tourists is growing also because of Nepal´s improved connectivity with Chinese cities. At present, three Chinese airlines -- Air China, China Eastern and China Southern -- link Kathmandu with major Chinese cities. China has also approached Nepal to revise Air Services Agreement (ASA) between the countries, citing increasing travel demand.