January 12: The arrival of Indian tourists is increasing in Nepal after regular flights resumed between the two countries in nine months under the air transport bubble scheme.
The two countries had agreed on December 21 to resume flights under the scheme proposed by India. Air service between Nepal and India was suspended since March 24 after the Government of Nepal imposed a nationwide lockdown to curb coronavirus.
India had proposed the air transport bubble scheme to Nepal around two months ago to take back the citizens of various countries. However, Nepal had initially declined the offer.
The government had lifted a ban on international flights on September 1 while domestic flights resumed three weeks later. The government had resumed air service after five months but the ban on India was still in force considering the number of Covid-19 cases in the country.
But in late December, the two countries agreed to resume flight operation. Following the agreement, lots of Indian tourists visited Nepal to celebrate the New Year, according to tourism entrepreneurs of Nepal.
Although the air route has been opened between Nepal and India, the border points are still closed due to which thousands of Indian tourists willing to visit Nepal are unable to travel. Stakeholders have demanded the government to open the border and allow Indian tourists who fulfill the health standards set by the government.
Vice President of Siddhartha Hotel Association, Bhairahawa Kishor GC said that the number of Indian tourists will rise significantly if the border is opened.
“Indian tourists are making enquiries. But they are unable to visit Nepal through the land route because the border is closed,” said GC, adding, “If the border is opened and Indian tourists arrive, it will be a relief to the tourism industry that has been badly affected by coronavirus.”
First Vice President of Pokhara chapter of Restaurants and Bars Association Nepal (REBAN) Naresh Bhattarai says that the arrival of Indian tourists during the New Year was much more than they had anticipated. He further said that the air transport bubble scheme has given the Indian tourists to visit their neighbouring country after a long gap. Stakeholders informed that Indian tourists arrived in considerable numbers to celebrate the New Year in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan and Lumbini.
Under the air bubble scheme, both countries have been operating flights between New Delhi and Kathmandu with only one airline company. Nepal has selected the state-owned Nepal Airlines Corporation to conduct one flight per day between Kathmandu and New Delhi while Indian Airlines has been operating flights on behalf of India.
Tribhuvan International Airport informed that only Indian tourists with negative PCR report of tests taken 72 hours before boarding the flight have been allowed to enter Nepal.