More tourists attracted to adventure activities

Despite sporadic bandas and strikes witnessed in the country in 2009, major tourism activities saw a growth compared to the previous year.

The number of tourists putting down trekking, mountaineering, rafting and golf as their purpose of visit has gone up. Tourism entrepreneurs are optimistic of increasing visitor numbers in 2010 and doubling arrivals during the upcoming Nepal Tourism Year 2011 (NTY 2011) national campaign.

Following the government's ambitious target of bringing one million tourists, different tourism related stakeholders are hopeful of achieving the target but raised concerns about the deteriorating political environment. "We are targeting about 200,000 trekkers in 2010," said Sitaram Sapkota, president of the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal (TAAN).

He said that the 2011 campaign would be more crucial to trekking agencies as they have targeted to host around 300,000 tourists. Sapkota said that there were 125,000 trekkers in 2008. The number increased to 130,000 in 2009.

According to the Nepal Tourism Board, more than 75,058 trekkers visited the Annapurna region in 2009. Similarly, 1,769 trekkers visited Manaslu in the same year.

The Kanchenjunga, Khumbu, Mustang, Upper Mustang, Lomanthang, Langtang-Helambu, Dolpo and Gauri Shanker trekking trails are popular in the country.

Ang Tshering Sherpa president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), said that visitors for mountaineering in the country increased to 7,500 in 2009 from 6,500 in 2008. According to him, the NMA hosted 1,800 mountaineers in 2008 and the number had increased to around 1,950 in 2009. He, however, said that the number might decrease in 2010 as the Pakistan government had slashed the royalty for mountaineering by 50 percent. He said that royalty rates should be reduced in 2011.

Gopal Prasad Kharel, president of the Nepal Association of Rafting Agents (NARA), said that there was a slim increase in the number of rafting tourists. According to him, in 2008, NARA hosted 15 percent of the total tourist arrivals.

Deepak Acharya, Nepal's professional golfer and golf director of the Gokarna Golf Course, said that they had targeted 12,000 golf tourists in 2011.

"We have projected about 50 percent increase in golf playing tourists this year as against the earlier year," he said.

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