Tourist arrivals to Chitwan reach all-time high of 185,644The national park is home to 125 tigers and 605 one-horned rhinos, making it a must-see destination for wildlife enthusiasts.
The number of foreign sightseers visiting the jungle safari destination of Sauraha, Chitwan reached an all-time high this fiscal year, making it one of the most visited tourist destinations in the country.
Nepal’s first national park—Chitwan National Park located in the southern Tarai—received 185,644 foreign tourists in the current fiscal year ending Tuesday.
Arrivals recorded a 56.50 percent growth, marking a tremendous recovery from the disastrous years of 2015 and 2017 following the earthquake.
The national park is home to 125 tigers and 605 one-horned rhinos, making it a must-see destination for wildlife enthusiasts. The rich flora and fauna attract hordes of adventure seekers which has turned Chitwan into the most profitable park in Nepal.
Bed Kumar Dhakal, chief conservation officer at the park, said it was an all-time high number this fiscal year after 2014-15 when 178,257 foreigners had visited the park.
Following the earthquake and economic blockade in 2015-16, the numbers dropped to 87,391. Again in 2016-17, foreigners dropped Chitwan from their tour plans due to the disastrous condition of the Narayanghat-Mugling highway, the main overland route to the wildlife sanctuary.
With the improvement in road conditions and political stability in the country, the tourists are coming back, said Dhakal. He added that they had computed the number of tourists on the basis of the entry tickets issued by the park, and the data does not include around 300,000-400,000 Nepalis and foreign tourists who visit the park through different community forests.
Chitwan National Park was established in 1973. There are 10 entry points to the park with Sauraha being the most popular one. Apart from Sauraha, a large number of tourists visit Patihani, Meghauli and Amaltari in Nawalparasi, and these areas have witnessed a boom in luxury resorts and hotels.
Suman Ghimire, president of the Regional Hotel Association, Chitwan, said visitor numbers were satisfying, but not enough. “Resorts and hotels built around the national park can accommodate at least double the number of arrivals,” he said. “With the proliferation of luxury resorts, it’s essential to increase the number of visitors too,” he said.
Jeep safari, elephant safari, boating, and bird watching on the banks of the Narayani and Rapti rivers are the major adventure activities that attract visitors.
Elephant safari in the thick jungle is the main attraction, but the park does not provide this service. Elephants belonging to private hotels are not allowed to go inside the national park. Elephant safari is available in the community forests only.
According to Dhakal, there are 32 jeeps inside the park which seems like a large number, but tourism entrepreneurs say that they are insufficient. “They have requested us to allow more jeeps and permit elephant safari inside the park. It is high time we worked on bringing quality tourists instead of just focusing on the number," Dhakal said.
The park earned Rs291 million in entrance fees this fiscal year, up from Rs248 million in the last fiscal year. With the increasing number of tourists, economic activities in Chitwan and Nawalparasi have also expanded, said officials. The tourism industry in Chitwan is estimated to provide direct and indirect employment to 3,000 and 9,000 people respectively.