Nepal welcomed 32,914 tourists in the first month of 2011, a gain of 26.2 percent compared to the same period last year. The first month of the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 campaign saw an increase of 6,843 visitors.
Tourism entrepreneurs have attributed the growth to improved air connectivity.
According to the government’s tourist arrival figures, Nepal recorded significant inbound growth from the major targeted markets, India and China. Indian arrivals were up 35.5 percent to 7,905 while arrivals from China saw a robust growth of 79.6 percent. Total Chinese arrivals amounted to 3,203 as against 1,783 in the same period last year. Indian and Chinese arrivals made up 24 percent and 9.7 percent of the total arrivals.
Nepal has targeted the northern and the southern neighbours as major markets during Nepal Tourism Year. Projected arrivals from India and China are 265,000 and 100,000 respectively.
“The significant growth in Chinese and Indian tourists can be attributed to increased air accessibility. Despite the poor performance of the national flag carrier, international airlines serving Nepal have upgraded their aircraft and increased their flight frequencies,” said Ram Kazi Koney, a tourism entrepreneur.
China Eastern and China Southern have also increased their flight frequencies leading to a growth of Chinese tourists in Nepal, Koney said.
Similarly, arrivals from South Korea amounted to 2,720, up 20.3 percent. South Korean tourists made up 8.3 percent of the total arrivals.
Following the signing of a peace accord between the Maoists and the government in 2006, the number of Buddhist pilgrims from East Asia has risen. Arrivals from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Japan and South Korea have also been increasing. “Korean Air has doubled its flight frequency to two weekly which has also contributed to the growth in Korean arrivals,” said a travel trade entrepreneur.
In the South Asian region, arrivals from Bangladesh and Pakistan registered a 10.3 percent and 13.3 percent growth respectively. However, arrivals from Sri Lanka declined by 47.5 percent. On aggregate, the South Asian segment registered a growth of 28.8 percent.
Arrivals from Asia excepting South Asia have also recorded a growth of 36.6 percent with all the markets showing improved performance. Arrivals from Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and South Korea increased by 8.2 percent, 51.9 percent, 29.1 percent, 3.2 percent and 20.3 percent respectively.
The European market saw an overall growth of 14.6 percent. Arrivals from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Russia were up 7.5 percent, 35.3 percent, 48.9 percent and 40.3 percent respectively. However, arrivals from France, Italy and Switzerland declined by 17.4 percent, 5.0 percent and 5.5 percent respectively compared to the same month last year.
Tourist arrivals from Australia, New Zealand and Canada have also registered robust growths of 23.8 percent, 59.7 percent and 9.8 percent respectively. Meanwhile, arrivals from the US increased by 27.6 percent to 2,446, making up 7.4 percent of the total arrivals.
Nepal has been enjoying sustained growth in international visitor arrivals since June 2009. These figures reflect rising confidence among visitors and tour operators to Nepal. The country saw a very strong surge in international visitors in 2010. The year-end growth for Nepal was 18.8 percent.