April 8: The number of foreign tourists visiting Nepal has been rising since the beginning of 2022. Along with the improvement in tourist arrivals, foreign exchange earnings are also increasing. The increase in tourist arrivals amid the deteriorating state of the economy is expected to have a positive impact on foreign exchange reserves.
According to the Nepal Tourism Board, 42,006 foreigners visited Nepal in March 2022 alone. In March 2021, the number was 14,977. Mani Raj Lamichhane, director of Nepal Tourism Board, said that tourist arrivals improved after the end of Covid-19 pandemic. He said that more than Rs 3 billion was earned from tourists in March alone.
According to the board, 17,661 tourists visited Nepal in March from neighboring countries including India. The number of people coming from Europe has also increased significantly. In March, 11,277 tourists arrived in Nepal from European countries. During the corresponding month last year, the number was 1,790. The number of tourists arriving from the USA and Canada is 5,646.
Arrival of tourists from northern neighbor China however has been declining. In March, only 431 Chinese tourists visited Nepal. The number was 1,207 last year. According to Lamichhane, the the tourism industry has contributed to foreign exchange. Compared to 2019, the revenue collected from tourists declined by 20 percent because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the Nepal Tourism Statistics-2020 released by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Nepal earned foreign currencies worth Rs 75.37 billion in the fiscal year 2075/76 before Covid-19. The income, however, declined sharply after the pandemic. According to the Nepal Rastra Bank, the country has earned foreign currencies worth Rs 11.35 billion from tourism in the first seven months of the current fiscal year. The amount was Rs 3.89 billion in the corresponding period of the previous year.
Former Chief Executive Officer of the Tourism Board, Deepak Raj Joshi, suggested that the tourism sector should be given first priority to boost the economy. He said, “One of the fastest growing sources of foreign exchange in Nepal is the tourism sector. Tourism can contribute 15 to 20 percent to the economy as soon as there is an improvement in arrival of tourists.”
Stating that Nepal earns billions from the tourism sector under normal circumstances, Joshi said that something should be done immediately as tourists are excited to come to Nepal even in the midst of the crisis.
Joshi suggested that the government and concerned bodies should encourage the airlines to bring tourists, by conveying the message that it is safe to visit Nepal.