With a remarkable increase in the number of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal over the years, the northern neighbour is sure to emerge as one of the major tourist generating markets for us in the near future.
In 2011, Nepal welcomed more than 45,400 Chinese tourists. The share of Chinese visitors in total arrivals grew by about eight per cent last year, while the market share of Indian arrivals accounted for about 27 per cent.
More than 145,000 Indians came to Nepal by air during the Visit Nepal Year 2011 (NTY 2011).
In 2010, tourist arrivals from China stood at around 46,000. This was a five-time rise from 2001.
Figures have shown that tourist arrivals from China surged by about 43 per cent in April this year as well compared to the same month last year.
Because of booming economy and improving living standard and increased air access to Nepal, tourist arrivals from China have been showing an encouraging trend over the years. The travel culture being developed among the Chinese people is another factor behind the growing inflow of tourists from the northern neighbour.
Currently, four Chinese airlines—Air China, China Southern Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Dragonair—are operating their regular flights to Kathmandu from various Chinese cities.
Air China operates its flights between Lhasa, Tibet, and Kathmandui, while China Southern Airlines flies on the Guangzhou-Kathmandu sector. Similarly, China Eastern Airlines has connected Kathmandu with Kunming and Dragonair operates services between Hong Kong and Kathmandu. Nepal’s national carrier, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), also operates its flights on the Hong Kong-Kathmandu route.
Chinese tourists are mainly interested in wildlife safaris, cultural and pilgrimage tours and adventure sports like paragliding. They are impressed with the unparallel natural beauty and unique Nepalese hospitality. During their trips to Nepal, they visit the Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini, Nagarkot and some more other popular tourist spots.
China is certainly a vast tourism market. The number of outbound visitors from China has been growing by leaps and bounds annually. It is also worth mentioning that China had designated Nepal as the former’s first outbound tourist destination in the entire South Asia more than a decade back.
In 2009, altogether 47.65million Chinese visited overseas. This was a four per cent up compared to that in 2008. Hong Kong, Macao, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, the United States, Russia, Singapore, and Thailand were the top 10 destinations in the order of the number of visitors from the Mainland China.
According to the China National Tourism Administration (CNTA), in 2011, Chinese tourists made 70.25 million trips to overseas, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The figure was a 22 per cent growth as compared to 2010. Interestingly, this was 1.2 times the number of the US travelers making their foreign trips. Of the total Chinese outbound tourists in 2011, more than 65 per cent belonged to the age group of 25 to 44 years.
In 2012, the number of Chinese outbound tourists is expected to increase to 78.4 million. This would be a growth of 12 per cent compared to last year. Meanwhile, the itineraries of Chinese tourists have been changing gradually as in-depth and themed tours have become key trends.
At present, China’s outbound tourism market is 1.2 and 3.5 times bigger than that of the U.S. and Japan, respectively, says the Annual Report of China Outbound Tourism Development 2012.
A forecast made by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has shown that China will be the world’s largest outbound tourism market in the near future.
The report indicates that with about 1.4 billion population and steady economic growth in China, the country’s outbound tourism will continue to maintain a sustained growth trend. China has contributed about 30 per cent to the growth of international tourism market.
Despite being very close physically and culturally to China, Nepal has yet to be able to capitalise on such advantages. One of the weaknesses on our part is that we still lack good tourism infrastructure. We need to diversify tourism and create more areas for tourists to lengthen their stay and spend more in the country. If we are able to attract even a small portion of Chinese tourists, this will be sufficient for us.
Apart from producing more Chinese speaking tourist guides and making available Chinese cuisines, Nepal has to make extra efforts to promote and market the country’s tourist attractions in the northern neighboiur. Even many tour operators in several cities in China are unaware of Nepal as a tourist destination.