BY UTPAL PARASHAR:
Tourism entrepreneurs in Nepal are a bit worried these days. The first two months of 2013 haven’t brought good news for them—despite the 6% increase in foreign tourist arrivals in February.
And the reason for their concern is the fall in number of tourists from India—Nepal’s largest “source market”—-for two consecutive months as indicated in figures released by Nepal Tourism Board.
In January the number of Indian tourists declined by a sharp 26% and the figure continued to drop to 18% in February in comparison to the previous year. The trend was similar in December 2012, which saw a 10% decline in the number of Indian tourists.
Annual figures of Indian tourists, however, present a different picture. Last year saw nearly 165,000 Indians coming to Nepal by air—an increase from the 2011 figure of 149,000.
Indians account for around 25% to 30% of the total number of foreign tourists who visit Nepal by air. Since both countries share an open border there’s no accurate data about the numerous other Indian tourists who enter Nepal by road.
Comparatively the number of tourists from China-ranked second after India in terms of tourists—stood at 53,373 for 2012, a decline from the previous year’s figure of 61,917.
Though number of Chinese tourists for this year has been encouraging—February saw a big jump of 135%—hotels and travel and tour operators are bothered by the continuing decline of Indian tourists.
News reports quoting tourism industry experts blame overpriced hotel rooms and lack of innovative marketing by the government as reasons why price conscious Indian tourists are seeking other destinations in Middle East and South East Asia for their holidays.
Lack of political stability and sudden ‘bandhs’ and ban on vehicular movement imposed by various political parties are other factors why Indian tourists are looking beyond Nepal.
To arrest this negative trend NTB is planning to appoint representatives in India and China to ensure large number of tourists from both countries. Promotional activities to make Nepal more attractive to Indian tourists are also being drawn up.
Unless these are framed with Indian tourists in mind and implemented soon the rest of 2013 could continue to hurt the Nepal tourism industry.
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