Thursday, 18 July, 2024

Call for reviving European tourism market


Ballav Dahal

Although Nepal has started exploring several new tourist source markets over the years, local tour operators call for reviving the European market as the Europeans are still regarded as high spenders.
Another reason is that the Europeans and the Americans would stay longer here in Nepal than that of other tourists because of their interest in trekking.
“Until 35 years ago, many Europeans, especially Finnish travellers, used to visit Nepal via Sri Lanka because of Finnish Air’s direct flights between Colombo and Helsinki,” Bhupendra Man Pradhan, Managing Director of Vista Travels & Tours (P) Limited, recalled.
They would stay one week in Sri Lanka to experience the sunny weather there before flying to Kathmandu by Nepal Airlines. During their weeklong stay in Nepal, some of them used to travel to Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini, Palpa and other destinations while others would go on trekking.
A lot of Nepalis would get jobs because of the high spending tourists coming from the western world.
Pradhan, who mostly handles Spanish tourists, said that Nepal used to welcome about 10,000-15,000 Spanish travellers annually. Normally, they come here during the off season.
“Their number has also now dropped considerably. We should make additional efforts to recover this market,” he said.
According to him, the European and the American tourists have been diverted to many other destinations. “This is because we do not have direct air connectivity with these markets,” he said.
More expensive airfare to Nepal is another reason for the decrease in the number of those tourists.
A national carrier can play an important role for the development of tourism of the concerned nation. Nepal’s national flag carrier—Nepal Airlines—used to operate its scheduled flights to some major European cities—Frankfurt, London and Paris. When Nepal Airlines operated its direct flights to Frankfurt in Germany, Nepal used to draw some 49,000 German tourists annually. Likewise, the country would receive as many as 47,000 tourists from the United Kingdom (UK) every year. The number of German and British travellers visiting Nepal has fallen to about 30,000 and 29,000, respectively.
“At a time when we are all set to celebrate the Visit Nepal Year 2020, the management of Nepal Airlines has been unable to utilise its wide-body jets. The government needs to pay due attention towards this,” he suggested.
Citing some of its air safety concerns, the EU has stopped Nepali carriers from flying to Europe.
The ban imposed by the European Union (EU) on Nepali airlines has been detrimental to the country’s tourism industry.
“The government must continue to take the initiative to free our airlines from the EU’s ban. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) should address the EU’s air safety concerns,” he said.
The poor tourism infrastructure is equally responsible for the decline in the number of European tourists.
“Despite having a long experience in the tourism business, we have failed to upgrade services and facilities at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA),” he said.
Several preferred tourist destinations like Rara Lake are still not easily accessible.
“Everyone is amazed to have the unparalleled scenic beauty of Rara Lake and its surroundings.
But we have not created additional attractions for them to stay there for some days,” he said.
Nepal aims to receive two million tourists during the VNY 2020. Last year, the country welcomed about 1.17 million international tourists.
“To double the number of tourists, we have to have double air seats, hotel beds and human resources. The government should have announced the national tourism campaign after doing necessary groundwork,” he said.
He suggested that Kathmandu should be developed into an important transit point by developing better air connectivity with major tourist generating markets at the regional and global levels.
Tourists still complain that they start facing hassles from the airport itself. Taxi drivers, hawkers and beggars often cause irritations to them.
It needs no mention that monument sites located inside the Kathmandu Valley are a major tourist attraction. But the process of rebuilding such sites has yet to be completed.
He called for attracting more foreign investments to the country’s tourism sector as well. Nepal could learn much from Bhutan.
“The small nation that has established luxury hotels in remote areas through attracting foreign investment that focussed on making more tourism receipts. But we are hankering after the number of tourists,” he said.
He underlined the need for Nepal to go for quality tourism in order to increase incomes from tourism.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Nepal’s tourism was on the right track as Nepal Airlines was stronger. As a wildlife tourism destination, Chitwan used to attract high-end tourists because of Tiger Tops. We also had Hotel Everest View at Syangboche.
“But our tourism industry has failed to flourish due to lack of better policies despite having tremendous prospects,” he said.