You go first, and we’ll follow.” This is what Chinese travellers say to tour and travel operators selling Nepal packages. Although, the Chinese government has not restricted its citizens from travelling to Nepal, potential visitors from the northern neighbour expect assurances from their tour organizers that it is safe to visit, a group of Chinese tour operators said Friday.
Currently, nine tour operators from China are on a Nepal visit. This is the first batch of tour and travel operators to visit Nepal after the April 25 earthquake. The operators said that Chinese travellers were likely to resume Nepal tours from August.
“Initially after the earthquake, we were under the impression that everything had been destroyed, but we see that except for a few places, all are intact,” said Linli Ru, operator of IA Holidays Guangzhou. “Nepal is a special destination for the Chinese as it is the birthplace of Gautam Buddha and contains the Himalaya mountains. So they cannot stop visiting the country.”
The operators who visited Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan and other places
said they had been wooing their customers through the internet.
Wechat, a popular messaging app, has become a common tool for promotion. The group has been sending photographs of various destinations in Nepal to publicize the country’s real situation as its tourism business has hit rock bottom after the disaster.
“This is the first group of Chinese operators in Nepal after the earthquake,” said Kishore Raj Pandey, chairman of Saathi Nepal Travel and Tours. Pandey was the first person to bring Chinese tourists to Nepal in 2002.
The Chinese government had granted Approved Destination Status (ADS) to Nepal in November 2001, allowing Chinese travellers to visit the country.
Before 2000, Chinese travellers were allowed to visit Nepal only on official visits. In June 2002, Chinese citizens arrived in Nepal officially for the first time as tourists.
In 2003, Nepal received 7,562 Chinese tourists. The number jumped to 46,000 in 2010. Since then, Nepal has recorded a dramatic boom in Chinese inbound. Arrivals jumped nearly three-fold in 2014 to reach 123,805, largely due to increased airline connectivity and China’s changing policy towards Nepal.
Industry insiders said that China was poised to overtake India as the top tourist market for Nepal as the number of visitors from the northern neighbor continues to surge.
While Chinese arrivals have been rising sharply, the number of Indians visiting Nepal dipped to 135,343, down 25 percent from last year. Currently, four Chinese carriers operate flights to Nepal.
Chief Administrator of the Nepal Tourism Board Ramesh Kumar Adhikari assured the visiting tour operators that there were no difficulties for tourists to travel to Nepal now.
“The earthquake was a big disaster for Nepal, but we need to forget these things and think about boosting tourism,” he said, adding that the board was doing its best to correct negative media coverage in the aftermath of the earthquake.