Nepal tourism board targets 1 million tourists in 2023The country’s tourism promotional body plans aggressive marketing activities in Asia.
Nepal Tourism Board, the country's tourism promotional body, on Saturday said it has targeted to host at least 1 million visitors in 2023, largely by attracting visitors from Asia.
“After two years of stagnation because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the industry is in a revival phase,” said Dhananjay Regmi, chief executive officer of the board, speaking at a programme to mark the 24th anniversary of the board.
“We will focus on attracting more visitors from Southeast Asia and the Middle East this year by launching more promotional campaigns in these regions.”
The tourism industry is the fourth largest employer in the country, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.
Nepal received 230,085 and 150,962 tourists in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
546,216 tourists came to Nepal as of November 2022, according to the Department of Immigration. The arrival numbers are expected to reach 600,000 in 2022.
"We would have received more visitors if the Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa had succeeded in attracting more airlines," Regmi added.
Nepal opened its second international airport in the southern city of Bhairahawa in May 2022. The modern facility is the gateway to the pilgrimage site of Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.
The country's third international airport is scheduled to be inaugurated in Pokhara on Sunday.
“We have now experienced that a lavish inauguration ceremony does not guarantee the regular operation of the airport,” said Regmi. “We have to be careful to ensure that the new international airport in Pokhara will not share the same fate as that in Bhairahawa.”
Bhairahawa airport needs to be promoted as a gateway not only to Lumbini but to the entire western and far-western part of the country, Regmi added. “The role of the private sector is significant to attract more visitors and make the most of the international airports.”
Chandra Prasad Rijal, vice chairman of the Nepal Tourism Board, said the tourism board has not been able to work effectively to attract tourists.
“The political leadership has been ignorant towards the tourism sector,” Rijal argued.
Shreejana Rana, president of the Hotel Association of Nepal, said Nepal Tourism Board has contributed a lot to promotion efforts.
“We should not start taking things for granted,” said Rana. “The need of the hour is to make the existing public-private partnership in tourism promotion even more effective.”
Tourism Secretary Suresh Adhikari said that there is a need to expand Nepal's tourist destinations.
“We can promote cultural and sports tourism targeting regional visitors,” Adhikari said. “However, insufficient budget and poor infrastructure have been barriers to the growth of Nepal’s tourism industry.”
“Private sector investment is a must for tourism development and we need to work on it.”