KATHMANDU, AUG 26 – Chinese arrivals to Nepal crossed the 100,000 mark last year reaching an all-time high of 113,173, largely due to improved air connectivity between Nepal and China, said the Tourism Ministry.
The figures released by the ministry last week showed that air arrivals jumped 55.3 percent to 62,616 and overland travellers surged 44.7 percent to 50,557. Arrivals from China in 2012 amounted to 71,861 persons. Around 93 percent of the Chinese tourists were first time visitors to Nepal. Chinese Ambassador to Nepal Wu Chuntai had said recently that the number of Chinese tourists to Nepal would reach 250,000 within a couple of years with increased flights between the two countries and land connectivity through Rasuwa and trans-Himalayan roads.
The rapid growth in Chinese arrivals is illustrated by the recently revised air services agreement (ASA) between Nepal and China. The new ASA permits Chinese carriers to operate 56 flights weekly with any type of aircraft. Earlier, Chinese airlines were allowed to operate 14 flights weekly.
At present, Air China and China Eastern operate daily scheduled flights to Nepal, while China Southern operates double daily flights. China Southern links Kathmandu and Guangzhou while China Eastern and Air China link Kathmandu with Kunming and Lhasa respectively.
Meanwhile, recently launched Himalaya Airways that plans to fly between Kathmandu and Lhasa from October 28 is also likely to increase tourist arrivals from China, said travel traders.
Nepal has witnessed a constant growth in Chinese arrivals since June 2009. Although Nepal had been given the Approved Destination Status (ADS) by the northern neighbour in 2002, the number of Chinese tourists was nominal. Nepal first participated in the China International Travel Fair in 2000 to promote Nepal’s tourism.
The two countries signed an initial memorandum of understanding on an implementation plan for outbound travel by Chinese travellers to Nepal in April 16, 2001 laying the groundwork for the ADS.
In 2002, the China National Tourism Administration granted the ADS to Nepal, and in June the same year, Chinese citizens began visiting Nepal officially for the first time as tourists.
Before 2000, Chinese visitors were allowed to travel to Nepal only on official visits. Subsequently, the central banks of the two countries signed an agreement on bilateral cooperation that allowed Chinese currency to be converted in Nepal in a bid to boost bilateral trade, tourism and economic cooperation.
During Nepal Tourism Year 2011, the government had targeted bringing 100,000 visitors from China out of the targeted 1 million tourists, but arrivals fell short of the goal.
Chinese, Indians among shortest stayers
Tourist arrivals from India and China swelled in 2013, but in terms of the visitors’ length of stay, the source markets rank fourth and sixth, respectively, from the bottom.
According to Nepal Tourism Statistics 2013 released by the Tourism Ministry on Thursday, Indian tourists spent 8.67 days in Nepal in 2013 on an average, down from 9.34 days in the previous year. Although the length of stay of Chinese tourists rose marginally to 9.48 days in 2013 from 8.82 days in 2012, it is still one of the shortest.
In 2010, visitors from the northern neighbour were among the longest stayers averaging 15.63 days. Nepal received 180,974 Indian visitors in 2013, among whom 167,282 arrived by air and the rest overland. According to purpose of visit, 64,367 came for holiday, 23,125 for pilgrimage and 21,193 for official purpose.
The figures show that Indian tourists are gradually being attracted towards trekking and mountaineering activities in Nepal. The number of Indian trekkers and mountaineers doubled to 6,386 last year from 3,430 in the previous year.
Among those who like trekking and mountaineering on the slopes of the Nepal Himalaya, visitors from India come fourth after the UK, the US and France. Around 79 percent of the Indian arrivals visited Nepal for the first time last year.
The ministry’s data showed that Nepal received 113,173 Chinese visitors last year. Surprisingly, 93 percent of the Chinese tourists were first time visitors. The ministry said that around 80 percent of the Chinese arrivals (89,827 individuals) were in Nepal for holiday and pleasure, followed by trekking and business.
Meanwhile, the longest stayers in Nepal last year were tourists from Norway. They spent an average of 23.74 days in the country, down from 25.49 days in the previous year. The Norwegians were followed by visitors from the US, Australia, Pakistan, Belgium, Switzerland and the UK.
As per the ministry’s data, American tourists spent 22.40 days in the country. Nepal received 47,355 visitors from the US in 2013, among them 37,318 first time visitors. The stats showed that 27,242 Americans visited Nepal for holiday and 7,686 for trekking and mountaineering, the second highest after tourists from the UK.
There were 35,668 British visitors last year who spent an average of 20.25 days in Nepal.
Countries with highest length of stay
Country Average stay (in days)
United Kingdom 20.25
New Zealand 18.76
(Source: Tourism Ministry)