Nepal, Bhutan agree on six-point agenda to boost air connectivity and tourismAs per the initial consultation agreement, the two countries have decided to give permanent status to the air service agreement
Nepal and Bhutan on Friday agreed on a six-point agenda to boost air connectivity and tourism between the two land-locked countries.
Nepal’s Tourism Ministry Secretary Dinesh Kumar Thapaliya and Bhutan’s Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications Kinley Dorji signed a memorandum of understanding on behalf of their respective governments in Kathmandu to formalise the agendas in the near future.
As per the initial consultation agreement, the two countries have decided to give permanent status to the air service agreement (ASA) signed and revised in different periods. Nepal and Bhutan signed the ASA in February 2004, which had allowed seven weekly flights. It was revised on May 17, 2014, permitting flight frequency to 21 per week.
Likewise, Nepal has agreed Bhutan’s proposal to grant two more traffic frequency on Paro-Kathmandu-Delhi and Delhi-Kathmandu-Paro from existing four per week under the fifth freedom rights.
“The pledged extra frequency will be implemented by signing an exchange of letter between the two countries in the near future,” said Thapaliya.
Although Bhutan had asked two other routes—Bagdogra and Bodhgaya of India—to Kathmandu under the fifth freedom traffic rights, tourism ministry officials said the request has been “duly noted”.
Under Nepal’s request, Bhutan has agreed to offer “beyond rights” facilities for Nepali carriers, or “stopover” traffic where passengers may embark or disembark at an intermediate stop as part of an itinerary between the endpoints of a connecting flights.
The beyond points rights as asked by Nepali sides are Kathmandu-Paro-Bangkok; Kathmandu-Paro-Naypyidaw, the capital city of Myanmar; Kathmandu-Paro-Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam; and Kathmandu-Paro- Phnom Penh; the capital city of Cambodia.
Thapaliya said the two countries also agreed to sign a separate MoU between Tourism authorities to boost tourism by simplifying immigration procedures.
To increase the air connectivity to and between Saarc countries, Nepal and Bhutan have agreed to raise the issues of simplifying air routes and connectivity at different Saarc forums.
“Necessary legal process will be expedited to implement the initial consultation agreement and it may take at least 4-5 months to complete the process,” Thapaliya said. “Once all the agendas are implemented, it will give a big boost for tourism of the both countries.”
Currently, Bhutan’s first private airline Tashi Air (also known as Bhutan Airlines) and Druk Air have been connecting Nepal. Nepali private carrier Buddha Air, which had launched commercial flights to Paro on August 23, 2010, has been making charter flights to Bhutan.