Monday, 21 November 2016

NEPAL: Low Air Connectivity Lets Down Tourism Recovery

Tourism entrepreneurs say low air connectivity is hindering the progress in reviving the country’s tourism sector, as it struggles to get back on its feet following the setbacks of last year.

As per Binayak Shah, general secretary of the Hotel Association Nepal, there is tremendous potential to bring international visitors to Nepal, but the basic problem is lack of proper air connectivity with source countries. “The airfare to Nepal is very expensive as there are very limited carriers offering services to the country.”

Nepal had welcomed 538,970 tourists in 2015, according to the data unveiled by the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation. However, inflow of tourists has been increasing in 2016 as the tourism industry is stirring back to normalcy after being suffocated by the earthquakes and protests in Tarai region.

The country has received 313,512 tourists in the first six months (January to June) of 2016, according to Tourism Ministry. Tourism entrepreneurs have said that inflow of tourist increased in 2016 as compared to low base of 2015 but the number of tourists that country received in first six months of 2016 is not very encouraging.

While the period between September and October is considered as peak tourist season in Nepal, tourists arrivals has not reached the level of 2014, as per Shah. “Occupancy rate in tourist standard hotels stands at average of 60 per cent, which was above 80 per cent in September to October of 2014.”

Moreover, the country has been able to tap only nominal number of tourists visiting Asia Pacific destinations. The country received around 600,000 tourists in 2015 against the total 577 million international visitors during calendar year 2015, shows the recently released Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Annual Tourism Monitor 2016 Final Edition.

Though 2015 was an encouraging year in terms of Asia Pacific destinations, the year remained quite disappointing for Nepal as the flow of outbound travellers declined substantially due to two major earthquakes of April and May, followed by the protests in Tarai region of the country.

Currently, the average tourist stay is 12.8 days and a tourist spends around $70 per day in the country. Tourism sector has been contributing less than three per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Among the 44 destinations across the entire Asia Pacific region, the top five performing destinations — by annual percentage growth — were led by Myanmar with growth of almost 52 per cent. Japan, Chile, Thailand and Sri Lanka were the other nations achieving top-five ranking. Of the 44 destinations covered, 32 showed positive increases in foreign arrivals in 2015.

PATA has said that number of international travellers in 2016 has been rising continually.

“China continued to dominate the growth pattern in Asia Pacific in early 2016,” as per the PATA report. “Japan, Thailand and Korea recorded significant increases of between 800,000 and almost one million additional arrivals from China.”