Nepal tourism excited by prospect of boom yearTourist arrivals to Nepal jumped 41.50 percent to 460,237 individuals in the first half of 2017, raising expectations that the total figure will hit the 1-million mark by the end of the year.
Tourist arrivals to Nepal jumped 41.50 percent to 460,237 individuals in the first half of 2017, raising expectations that the total figure will hit the 1-million mark by the end of the year.
According to the Department of Immigration, Nepal received 134,988 more tourists in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year, with most of the increase resulting from a surge in arrivals from India, China, the US and the UK.
The peak tourist season does not begin until September, and tourism entrepreneurs are optimistic that arrivals will hit the 1-million mark this year. In 2011, the country had endeavored to attract 1 million arrivals, but the goal proved unattainable.
“As we enter the key season, we expect to set a record. We are well on the way to having the highest number of visitors in history,” said Deepak Raj Joshi, chief executive officer at the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).
Joshi said that the growth in arrivals could be attributed to increased confidence in Nepal as a tourist destination after the 2015 earthquake. “Nepal’s tourism experienced a dramatic turnaround due to continuous marketing efforts and aggressive promotion by various international media.”
Besides, peace and stability played an important role in boosting tourist numbers, he said.
Nepal received a lot of media exposure following the earthquake which aroused tremendous interest among potential travelers. The world’s leading travel guide Lonely Planet had named Nepal the world’s ‘best value destination’ for 2017. Nepal has been placed on the list of the top 10 places that deserve more travellers by National Geographic.
The UK-based popular travel publication has placed Nepal among the top three spots in its list of 10 places. “This year, we also launched the biggest media campaign in history by partnering with three reputed international organizations—Reuters, BBC World and TripAdvisor—having wide global outreach in a bid to boost tourist arrivals,” said Joshi.
The Tourism Ministry has launched the National Tourism Strategy 2016-25 which envisages a fivefold increase in arrivals to 2.52 million annually by the year 2025. Joshi said that if the current trend continues, it would not be a big deal to host 2.5 million tourists by 2025. “However, removal of infrastructure bottlenecks like airports and roads will be key to growth.”
Prabesh Aryal, executive director of Hotel Association Nepal (HAN), said that the outlook for the upcoming tourist season (September-November) was positive with most luxury hotels reporting 85-90 percent advance bookings as of mid-August. “We expect 2017 to be a big year.”
A breakdown of arrivals by market shows Indian travellers at the top of the list. Arrivals from the southern neighbour reached 89,196 in the first six months of 2017, up 64.49 percent. Chinese tourist arrivals jumped 13.89 percent to 52,084.
As Nepal is now connected by five airlines from mainland China, there could be a dramatic growth in arrivals from the northern neighbour, tourism entrepreneurs said.
Arrivals from the US increased strongly by 40 percent to 40,161. Likewise, 26,395 tourists from the UK visited Nepal in the first six months of 2017, up 42.69 percent. Arrivals from Sri Lanka swelled 12.58 percent to 19,607.
Spending by foreign tourists soared 41.9 percent in the first 11 months of the last fiscal year ending mid-June, as arrivals rebounded after India lifted an economic blockade in February 2016 and life gradually returned to normal following two devastating earthquakes in April and May 2015.
Foreigners visiting to Nepal spent Rs55.2 billion in the 11-month period between mid-July and mid-June, as against Rs38.9 billion in the same period a year ago, according to the report of Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB).