Interview: Chinese market significant for Nepal's tourist industry

10:10, February 01, 2010      

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by Binju Sitaula, He Xianfeng

From the tourism perspective, Chinese market has turned more important than before for Nepal, said Kashi Raj Bhandari, Director of Research, Planning and Monitoring desk at Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).

The Chinese outbound tourist arrivals are surging up in Nepal in recent years, said Bhandari in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

"In context of China, NTB began its work from zero and the consequence is that at present China has become second largest tourist market for Nepal after India," he said.

Chinese outbound tourists began to visit Nepal when Nepal was commended as an Approved Destination Status (ADS) by National Tourism Administration (CNTA) of the People's Republic of China. Nepal and China both side inked the Memorandum of Understanding on implementation plan for outbound travel by Chinese citizens to Nepal on April 16, 2001.

At the time of signing MoU, Nepalese side allocated 77 designated travel agencies while the Chinese side allocated 67 designated travel agencies.

At present, the number of the designated travel agencies from the Chinese side has increased to 586 so that more and more Chinese tourists are expected to visit Nepal in the near future.

"Nepal is on a rush of meeting the target of national campaign Nepal Tourism Year-2011 (NTY)", Bhandari said. "At present, more than 35,000 Chinese visitors come to Nepal annually, if we pay a little more attention to the strategic plan, then the number could be 100,000 within a year," he added.

Highlighting the present figure of Chinese outbound visitors in Nepal, Bhandari said, "This is our achievement that started from zero." "With the booming Chinese economy, the average spending of Chinese national is also increasing. Here we see the possibilities of increase in outbound visitors as well."

"It is not hard to increase the number of Chinese outbound visitors from 35,000 to 100,000 if we could offer affordable packages, air connectivity to link Kathmandu-Beijing and Kathmandu- Shanghai," Bhandari stressed. The main barrier we have seen is " air connectivity", he added.

According to him, tour packages in Nepal are pretty expensive. On top of this, air connectivity has limited choice with high rates.

"If these Chinese outbound tourists could add a little money then they can easily fly to other destinations," he said, referring to the expansive tour packages and airfare rates.

He said that more and more Chinese tourists will visit Nepal if more airlines will connect major cities of two countries. Recently, there are four Chinese airlines connecting Nepal and China.

China Eastern connects Kathmandu-Kunming, China Southern connects Guangzhou-Kathmandu, Air China connects Lhasa-Kathmandu and Dragon Air connects Kathmandu-Hong Kong.

Emphasizing on need of more air-way passage to increase Chinese tourists, Bhandari advised Nepal Airlines Corporation to offer Kathmandu-Beijing and Kathmandu-Shanghai air connectivity. "If we could link these major cities in an affordable airfare within a year, more than 60,000 Chinese outbound tourists will be visiting Nepal," he said.

Bhandari said that since Chinese tourists began to visit Nepal nine years ago, the growth rate has been increased to 20 percent annually. Thus, there is great potential for Nepal to lure more Chinese outbound tourists.

In order to attract more Chinese tourists, Bhandari hinted that Nepal might provide some special privileges to Chinese tourists. For instance, "In Bhaktapur Durbar Square, UNESCO World Heritage Site, tourists except from South Asian region are supposed to pay 10 U.S. dollars while Chinese tourists can only pay Rs 50 (below one U.S. dollar).

Source: Xinhua
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