Chinese tourist arrivals up 14pc

Chinese tourist arrivals have been increasing significantly over the last one decade indicating that China is becoming one of the top markets for Nepal's tourism.

Compared to the arrivals from January to September in 2008, Chinese inbound during the same period this year surged by 14.6 percent to 11,583 persons. Arrivals had declined 2 percent in 2008 due to political instability, protests, strikes and bandas, said tourism entrepreneurs. In 1999, Nepal hosted only 3,977 Chinese tourists.

Even if the China has been recognised as one of the major tourist source countries, there is no official data on the arrival of tourists before 1996. According to a report on tourist arrivals in Nepal, India was the number one market for Nepal in 1998. It remained in the top position till September 2009.

Tourism experts said that increased flights between Nepal and China mainly supported the growth in tourist arrivals. But still, tourist arrivals from China is less than from India. Till September, a total of 65,967 Indian tourists had visited Nepal, whereas arrivals from China numbered 11,583 persons. Every year, 450,000 Chinese tourists visit India.

Entrepreneurs said that promotional programmes conducted by tourism organizations such as the Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA) and the Hotel Association Nepal (HAN) played an effective role in increasing Chinese arrivals in Nepal.

"We are trying to attract at least some percentage of the Chinese tourists visiting India," said NATTA president Ram Kaji Koney. "Similarly, the increase in the number of direct flights between Nepal and China has also supported the increasing growth."

Earlier, Air China and China Southern used to operate flights to Nepal. Now, China Eastern Airlines has also started to operate direct flights between Kunming and Kathmandu. According to these airlines, their occupancy rate is over 80 percent.

"As the airlines have made it easy to experience a country rich in diversity within four hours, the Chinese people's interest in Nepal has increased," said Koney. He added that after the operation of the new flights, the price of air tickets had also gone down comparatively.

Tourism experts said that the exchange facility provided to the Chinese yuan had also made it convenient for Chinese tourists visiting Nepal.
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