Visitor numbers in 2015 not so low but tourism suffered

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tourists-in-nepal3KATHMANDU:  A total of 554,747 people visited Nepal in the year 2015, according to data from the Department of Immigration (DoI). The data does not include figures from the Tatopani border since the April earthquake as the entry point was totally damaged.

The arrivals number is down by 29.7 percent compared to the year 2014 when a total of 790, 118 people visited Nepal from abroad.

Even though the number of visitors has not declined as much as had been feared, the tourism industry has been hit hard as many visitors did not come as tourists.

Vinayak Shaha, general secretary of Hotel Association of Nepal, said that visitors definitely came to Nepal in  2015 but the purpose of the visits was totally different from that of previous years when they used to come to Nepal for vacations and for pleasure.

“Earlier, they used to come here entirely for touristic activities like sight seeing, mountaineering or trekking. Hotel occupancy in 2015 was down to 20 to 25 percent, bookings were down as well and mountaineering and trekking data also show that they did not come for pleasure,” said Shah.

When there is any disaster in a country people from outside visit mostly for rescue and relief work and tourism entrepreneurs say this was also the case in Nepal in 2015 following the April earthquake. Because of this, the numbers show that visitor arrivals have not gone down drastically.

Basanta Mishra, secretary/treasurer of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), said that the income of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has not declined much but this does not mean the tourism industry has not suffered.

“The arrivals figure has not declined but the tourism industry suffered as the number of  expats, people working for NGOs/INGOs and those who came for relief and rescue work rather than for tourism purposes was high,” said Mishra adding that  NTB should adopt a strategic and aggressive marketing plan to bring real tourists back to Nepal.

Most Nepalis with foreign passports who visited Nepal after the quake did so to look up family and friends  and their numbers also added to the arrival figures. But the tourists were rarer in 2015.

DoI data shows that the flow of tourists in the three months after the earthquake was very low. The month of May  saw 24,340 arrivals, with  17,751 and 22,340 respectively in June and July, the lowest figures for the year.

The two months before the earthquake saw 83,469 and 72,275  arrivals respectively.

Total of 554,747 visitors during year

Total of 554,747 visitors during year

“Yes the number is not down drastically but the question is can they be regarded as real tourists or not?  We saw more visitors in the Valley and in the earthquake affected districts than in the major tourist destinations,” said Deepak Raj Joshi, CEO of NTB, adding that the tourism industry took a beating in 2015 and it will be some time before things are back to normal.

Joshi said NTB is in the process of finalizing its budget and its plans and is adopting new strategies for promoting Nepal.

–  KRITI BHUJU/REPUBLICA

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