Tourism Council wakes up to life finally


KATHMANDU, NOV 21 - The National Tourism Council (NTC), the apex body formed to streamline tourism related activities, has met after a gap of 10 years. Earlier, NTC meetings used to be held annually or biannually.

Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, who chaired Friday's meeting, directed NTC officials to make a schedule for holding its meeting two more times before Nepal Tourism Year 2011.

He directed the council to expedite development activities with more planned and commercial value that would bring positive outcomes in overall development. He said that golf and skiing could be valuable products for Nepal's tourism.

He added that the Sri Lankan government had shown interest in resuming direct air links between Nepal and Sri Lanka and that the flights could help to bring large numbers of Buddhist pilgrims to Nepal. "The plan to construct a second international airport at Nijgadh and a regional airport at Lumbini is making headway," he said.

He said that the government was discussing building a fast-track highway between Pokhara and Lumbini that would help boost tourism and help contribute to the country's economic development. Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Sarat Singh Bhandari said that the government planned to develop Janakpur as a marriage destination; and that Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari districts would be developed as Birat tourism destination. Similarly, other Tarai regions popular for different historical, religious and indigenous customs and cultures have been proposed to be developed as pilgrimage destinations, he said.

Representatives of the private sector and other concerned stakeholders expressed concern over the declining market share of Nepali airlines at the international level and recommended increasing the national flag carrier's flight movements.

Nepal Airline Corporation's market share has plunged to 10 percent from 56 percent a couple of years ago. The number of passengers flying Nepal Airline annually has nosedived to 21,000 from 150,000. Similarly, the meeting also focused on the inadequacy of hotels and beds to support Nepal Tourism Year 2011 that has targeted to bring one million tourists. The overall capacity of hotels is 785,000 annually.

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