Nepal’s tourism industry is recovering from a six-year slump following the ceasefire and the start of the peace process. According to the preliminary figures released by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), South Asia recorded a 3 percent decline in arrivals in 2009. However, arrivals rebounded strongly for Nepal during the period resulting in full-year gains of 1 percent.
Similarly, the preliminary data of the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation for 2009 shows that arrivals increased by 1.1 percent compared to the previous year.
Last year, tourist arrivals numbered 509,752 including 378,712 by air and 131,040 by land. In 2008, arrivals stood at 500,277 including 374,661 by air and 125,616 by land.
Tourism entrepreneurs said that the gradual growth was a sign that tourism was getting better with an improvement in the political situation.
According to the International Trade Centre (ITC), Geneva, tourism earned Nepal US$ 352 million in 2008.
The ITC has identified tourism as a potential growth sector. The prospects are likely to expand with the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 campaign. The ambitious promotion plans to double tourist arrivals during 2011. Tourism entrepreneurs are hopeful that India and China will be a potential market to meet the envisaged goal.
The NTY implementation committee has projected that the southern and northern neighbours will contribute 40 percent of the arrivals out of the targeted one million.
“We are aiming for 265,000 visitors from India and 100,000 from China,” said Yogendra Sakya, coordinator of the NTY implementation committee.
“The Chinese are attracted to Nepal for business opportunities,” Shakya said. Pilgrimage is a chief lure for Indian tourists.
“We don’t have new products presently, however, the focus will be on international events and activities,” he said.
Apart from mountaineering and trekking, golf, cricket and other sports and adventure activities are expected to pull in young visitors.
The pledge made recently by 19 political parties not to organize bandas or strikes during 2011 is another encouraging development for NTY.
“This has removed the obstruction to marketing our products,” said Prachanda Man Shrestha, chief executive officer of the Nepal Tourism Board.
“With the commitment made by the political parties, there will be a substantial improvement in the travel advisories about Nepal,” he added. “We can assure international visitors that Nepal is a safe destination to visit through the travel advisories.”