Tuesday, 25 April 2017

NEPAL: Tourism Stakeholders Ask For Competitive Air Fare Between Nepal And China

Nepalese tourism stakeholders on Wednesday stressed on making air travel between Nepal and China cheaper to promote bilateral tourism, arguing that air transport between the two neighbors is one of the most expensive in the world.

They said at an interaction on the theme of Silk Road Tourism between Nepal and China, organized by China National Tourist Office and Nepal China Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NCCCI) that potential growth of Chinese tourists to Nepal has been hindered by higher air fare and relatively low air connectivity.

China is the Nepal’s second largest source market for tourists after India since 2010. Nepal welcomed 104,005 Chinese tourists in 2016 as arrivals surged by 55.26 percent on year-on-year basis after disastrous 2015 due to deadly earthquake and subsequent blockade in southern border points of Nepal, according to the data of Department of Immigration of Nepal.

NCCCI President Rajesh Kaji Shrestha said that air ticket for Kathmandu-Guangzhou is more expensive than travelling through the Kathmandu-Bangkok-Guangzhou. “Travelling Kathmandu to Kunming is costlier than India’s Kolkata’s to Kunming. Price must be competitive to attract more Chinese tourists to Nepal,” he said.

Currently, four Chinese airlines — China Southern, China Eastern, Sichuan Airline and Air China are serving Kathmandu to Guangzhou, Kunming, Chengdu and Lhasa respectively.

Shrestha said that there should be direct air connectivity between Kathmandu and Beijing, Shanghai to attract more Chinese tourists. Nepal’s national flag carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation is also serving Kathmandu-Hong Kong route currently and also has plan to reach Chinese mainland.

Sunil Sharma, officiating director of Nepal Tourism Board, the main tourism promotion body of Nepal, said that the board has been consistently promoting Nepal’s tourism in China but travel cost has been hindering the potential of Chinese tourist arrivals to Nepal.

Nepalese stakeholders also asked China to ease travel for tourist through land route too, particularly through bordering Geelong port which is currently only international trade route between the two countries.

Chinese ambassador to Nepal Yu Hong said that China was promoting Nepal’s tourism under the Year of Tourism for Nepal 2017 in line with the joint statement signed in 2016.

Nepal’s national flag carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is all set to purchase wide-body aircraft for the first time in its history.

The NAC on Friday signed a purchase agreement with U.S.-based AAR Corp, the American aviation support company for the supply of two airbus planes A320-200. The U.S.-based company was awarded contract in January after it quoted the lowest amount in a bidding process.

NAC Managing Director Sugat Ratna Kansakar and AAR’s representative Deepak Sharma signed the agreement on Friday. Based on the agreement, the AAR will supply both aircraft in the second quarter of 2018 at the combined cost of 209.6 million U.S. dollar, the NAC said in a press release.

Kanskar said that the first ever acquisition of wide-body aircraft would help the national flag carrier conduct direct flight to far away destinations.

“We had conducted flights to European destinations like London in the past with narrow-body aircraft but we had to stop mid-way for refueling,” said Kanskar.

After acquiring these aircraft, the NAC has planned to conduct flights to destinations such as South Korea, Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia.

Kansakar said that after acquiring the two wide-body aircraft, the NAC targets to secure 15-16 percent market share from among the international airlines which carry passengers from and to Kathmandu. Currently, its market share is around 11 percent as of 2016.

Currently, NAC has been conducting international flights with its one Boeing 757-200 and two Airbus 320-200

Himalayan Airlines, a Nepal-China joint venture, on Thursday announced that it is starting daily flights to Dubai, UAE, from April 28.

The airline has offered an introductory round-trip airfare beginning from Rs 24,827 (exclusive of taxes) for Kathmandu-Dubai-Kathmandu sector. Fishtail Travel and Tourism LLC, Dubai as its GSA( General Sales Agent) for passengers in UAE.

Dubai is Himalaya Airlines fourth international destination after Kuala Lumpur, Doha and Yangon.

The airline which started its first flight operations from May 31 last year with scheduled flights to Doha, Qatar, had recently added a new Airbus A320 to its fleet.