DESPITE seeing a two per cent slide in overall tourist arrivals in 1Q2013, Nepal has registered blistering 36 per cent growth in Chinese visitorship as the country steps up efforts to woo this market.
Chinese arrivals numbered 14,700 this quarter and 85,832 in 2012. Of the latter, 53,373 came by air and the rest by road. The average length of stay for Chinese tourists is 10 days, as per Nepal government statistics.
Buddhist pilgrimages and adventure activities such as trekking, paragliding and rafting are the main draws for Chinese visitors.
Nepal’s travel trade credited the rise in Chinese arrivals to increased promotions and participation at Chinese tradeshows over the last two years, which looks set to continue in the future.
Said Sushil Ghimire, secretary, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, in a media statement: "Since China is our second largest market for tourism (the first being India), we believe the time has come to shift our focus towards China as a large source market, from here on."
Nepal is mulling the set up of visa facilitation services in several Chinese cities to smoothen the process.
Meanwhile, Bikram Pandey, vice president, Nepal Association of Tour Operators, said: “Inbound travel companies are gearing up for the increase in Chinese tourists by training tour guides with Chinese language skills. New tour packages are being designed specifically for visitors from China.”
Hari Sarmah, CEO, Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents, said: “As the Chinese are serious shoppers and entertainment seekers, we are trying to build more of such products to attract them.”
On the other side of the fence, the Chinese government has asked Nepal to revise the bilateral air service agreement between the two countries as the travel demand outstrips the seat capacity allocated to Chinese carriers. Three Chinese carriers – Air China, China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines – currently run services to Nepal.