Tourist arrivals via air in the first 11 months of 2012 reached an all-time high of 553,430. According to the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), arrivals during the period January-November was up 10.4 percent year on year.
Arrivals from India reached 153,318, up 15.6 percent. Chinese arrivals came in second place followed by the US and the UK. The stats show that 48,379 Chinese travellers visited Nepal during the review period, up 20.2 percent. Arrivals from the US amounted to 39,001, up 11.2 percent while visitors from the UK numbered 33,018.
The country welcomed 59,411 visitors in November, up 2.2 percent compared to the same period last year. Nepal witnessed a negative growth in monthly tourist arrivals in October for the first time since June 2009.
Arrivals via air dropped 7.3 percent to 67,901 in October, the peak tourist season. Travel trade entrepreneurs attributed the unexpected drop in arrivals to a substantial decline in the number of visitors from the European and South Asian market segments.
Kashi Raj Bhandari, director, planning and research at the NTB, said that the growth can be termed encouraging as it was achieved without substantial investments in the tourism sector.
“Although Nepal Tourism Year 2011 had targeted attracting one million visitors, it fell short of the target. But looking at the annual growth trend, travel demand in Nepal is strong and this momentum will continue in 2013 also. Considering, the January-November figure, this year’s arrivals by air and surface will touch 800,000.”
Some travel trade entrepreneurs said that given the existing air seat capacity and infrastructure, the growth should be considered tremendous. “Had the growth rate in Indian arrivals not suffered a drop in October and November, the overall growth would have been significant,” Bhandari added. Arrivals from India, a major source market for Nepal, dropped 30.1 percent and 21.6 percent in October and November respectively.
Though Indians traditionally make up the largest number of visitors to the country, a sharp increment in the arrival of Chinese tourists has immensely encouraged the domestic tourism market.
The growth of Chinese visitors in Nepal has encouraged Chinese carriers to raise their flight frequency. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has said that the Chinese government had asked Nepal to revise the bilateral air service agreement (ASA) between the two countries as travel demand has outstripped the seat capacity given to Chinese carriers.
China has requested another 10 flights weekly. At present, the ASA allows Chinese airlines to operate 14 flights per week. Three Chinese carriers—Air China, China Southern and China Eastern—currently serve Nepal. Chinese arrivals via air jumped 77.6 percent to 45,400 in 2011.
According to the stats, arrivals from South Asian countries rose 12.5 percent in the first 11 months. Arrivals from Asia (other than South Asia) climbed 15.7 percent and the European market grew 4.6 percent.
Likewise, arrivals from Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) and America (the US and Canada) have increased 14.1 percent and 10.8 percent respectively.