Nepal which faces the challenge of reviving its tourism industry following the devastating earthquakes of 2015 has prioritised the European market this year.
-- BY SHANT SHARMA
Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) is celebrating 2017 as 'visit Nepal' year for European tourists, with the target of bringing in at least 200,000 visitors from Europe in the year. Ever since the year-long campaign was announced on Dec 31, 2016, on the occasion of the 18th anniversary of NTB, the Board has been holding tourism promotional programmes in various European countries in cooperation with the Non-Resident Nepali (NRN) associations, Nepali embassies and other Nepali organisations there. "Europe is one of our major markets. We will try to increase the tourist arrivals from the European countries by 30 percent in 2017," shares Deepak Raj Joshi, NTB's Chief Executive Officer (CEO), "So, we are holding promotional programmes in our major markets with the help of NRNs and their organisations and the Nepali embassies in Europe."
Agrees Dipeshman Shakya, coordinator of the campaign and NTB's honorary representative for Ireland. "The Nepal government has decided to celebrate 2018 as Nepal Tourism Year (NTY). The 2017 Europe campaign is going to help the success of NTY 2018 as well," he says, adding that NTB has planned more promotional programmes in various European countries, a major source of 'quality' tourists for Nepal. "Programmes promoting Nepal as an ideal destination will soon be held in countries like Ireland, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Russia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Denmark," he shared. Meanwhile, NTB's CEO Joshi told Newbiz that the year-long campaign will be formally launched in Europe amidst a special programme in London on March 15. Following that, Joshi added, various programmes such as photo exhibitions, symposiums on mountaineering, 'send a friend to Nepal', Nepal Day, Mt Everest Day, Lord Buddha's birth anniversary celebrations, Familiarisation trips etc will be organized in Europe to promote the Visit Nepal - Europe 2017 campaign.
Attracting 200,000 European Tourists
Europe is the third largest source of tourists for Nepal after India and China and European tourists are considered to be high-end tourists. NTB plans to bring in at least 200,000 European tourists in 2017. The target doesn't seem impossible considering the fact that of the total 753,000 tourists who visited Nepal in 2016, around 150,000 came from Europeans countries. "Europe is special for us. And we hope that our Europe campaign will be successful. The Nepali tourism industry stands to gain momentum from this campaign," asserts Joshi.
Tourism entrepreneurs are quite excited about the year-long campaign aimed at the European market. They have already started announcing special packages for European tourists. For example, the KGH Group of Hotels which runs over a dozen quality hotels across the country, including the famous Kathmandu Guest House in Thamel, has announced 25 percent discount for European visitors. "We are more than eager to welcome European tourists," says Rajan Shakya, CEO of KGH Group of Hotels.Similarly, Rupakot Resort has announced 20 percent discount for the visitors from Europe. Likewise, Hotel Hyatt has announced to provide free rooms to celebrities coming from Europe in 2017. Hotel Annapurna, too, has announced discounts for European tourists. "Most big hotels and travel and trekking agencies have announced special packages for European visitors and many others are going to follow suit," claims the campaign's coordinator Shakya.
The Issue of Aerial Connectivity
According to industry insiders, adventure tourism in Nepal is a major attraction for European tourists who come to the Himalayan country mainly for activities like trekking, paragliding, bungee jumping, canoeing, rafting, rock and mountain climbing etc. "Of the total 150,000 international tourists who go trekking in Nepal annually, more than 60 percent are from Europe," shared KGH's Shakya, adding that adventure tourism entrepreneurs, too, should announce special discount offers for European tourists. Joshi, however, admitted that the lack of direct flights between Kathmandu and Europe has affected tourist arrival from Europe. "In Europe, we have direct flights only between Istanbul and Kathmandu. We don't have direct flights to other more important places in Europe," he says, "The government should focus on enhancing aerial connectivity between Nepal and Europe."
Joshi seems to be absolutely right. Not only Europe, there is no direct flight to Kathmandu from major markets like Beijing, Tokyo and the US. "Efficient aerial connectivity with major tourist markets is a must for tourism development in Nepal. For the time being, we are waiting for Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) to acquire two wide-body aircraft of the Airbus 330-200 series," said Joshi. NAC has said that it will operate direct flights between Nepal and Europe after it acquires two wide-body Airbus aircraft. "If everything goes well, we will have acquired the first wide-body aircraft by September 2017 and will be able to operate direct flights to Europe during the prime tourist season," said Ramhari Sharma, spokesperson for NAC. International tourists bring in about USD 1.6bn to Nepal annually.