Chinese market crucial to revive tourism: Entrepreneurs

Kathmandu, May 14

Aggressive promotion and marketing in the Chinese market could help revive the flagging tourism sector, according to entrepreneurs.

As the number of outbound Chinese travellers has already exceeded 100 million, the country needs to focus on aggressive promotion and marketing in the Chinese market, stated Suman Pandey, chairman of PATA Nepal chapter.

His statement comes at a time when the recent forecast made by Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) has said that Chinese outbound travellers will dominate the region’s international tourism landscape, generating close to 23 per cent of all arrivals to Asia-Pacific destinations by 2020. They will outpace number of outbound US and European citizens

“The government, during high-level visits between the two countries or through diplomatic mission, should also request the northern neighbour to send more tourists to Nepal to revive the tourism market that took a hit by the devastating temblors of April and May last year,” opined Pandey.

PATA’s Asia Pacific Visitor Forecast (2016-20) has stated that arrivals from China to Asia-Pacific destinations will rise from an estimated 102 million in 2015 to more than 150 million by the close of this decade. “Based on historic expenditure patterns, that increases the in-country aggregate expenditure by this market in Asia-Pacific from the $157 billion achieved in 2015 to more than $230 billion by 2020,” it has forecast.

Nepal’s hospitality sector is one of the most rapidly expanding sectors and tourism entrepreneurs believe coming years will see service providers upping the ante to tap high-end tourists. More so as global hotel chains like Sheraton, Marriot, Holiday Inn and Starwood Aloft are all set to debut in Nepal.

It is reported that around 4,000 rooms will be added within next five years in tourist standard hotels/resorts. Currently, the average tourist stay is 12.8 days and a tourist spends around $70 per day in the country. Chinese travellers in Nepal are preferred by tourism entrepreneurs as they are considered to be high-end tourists.

Along with rapid expansion in hospitality sector by private sector, the government should focus on developing tourism-related infrastructure and early completion of tourism sector-related reconstruction to create synergy in bringing more tourists to Nepal, as per Pandey. “This could be supportive in attaining sustainable and inclusive economic growth.”

Out of the total 800,000 tourists that visit Nepal every year on average, around 16 per cent are Chinese, according to Nepal Tourism Board. To increase the flow of Chinese tourists, the government in December last year had waived visa fee for Chinese visitors. Only visitors from SAARC member countries had enjoyed such treatment till then.

Foreign visitors have to pay $25 for a 15-day visa and $40 and $100 for 30-day and 90-day visas, respectively.

Sugat Ratna Kansakar, managing director of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC)opines that simply waiving the visa fee is not sufficient to attract greater number of Chinese tourists. More flight connectivity between the two countries, along with the completion of new airports at Bhairahawa and Pokhara will help bring more tourists from the world’s second-largest economy, as per him.

The government aims to increase tourist arrivals to two million by 2020 and tourism entrepreneurs have been suggesting the government to focus on bringing more tourists from neighbouring India and China to achieve this goal.

Currently, four Chinese airlines — Air China, China Southern, China Eastern and Sichuan Airlines — have been operating flights to Kathmandu. However, NAC has been operating flights to Hong Kong only. In a bid to tap more Chinese tourists, the national flag carrier is planning to operate flights to emerging mega cities, Guangzhou and Kunming of China, very soon, according to Kansakar. “We have nearly completed all procedures to begin flying to Guangzhou.”

Expensive airfare charged by the international airlines operating services to Kathmandu sector is considered to be a major drag for the tourism industry. NAC has been preparing to operate flights to other destinations as well so that airfare of Kathmandu sector is competitive.

Earlier this year, PATA had published a report on expected flows and patterns of international travellers across the Asia-Pacific region over the next five years (2016 to 2020). The expected average annual growth rate of more than four per cent per annum over the next five years will lift foreign tourist arrivals volume into Asia-Pacific from the 538 million received in 2015 to more than 657 million by 2020, as per the PATA report

“For Asia, 58 per cent of the additional volume generated by the Northeast Asia sub-region to 2020 will be delivered to destinations within that same sub-region, while 84 per cent of the additional increase in arrivals arising from within Southeast Asia will be to destinations within Southeast Asia.”

However, South Asia bucks that intra-regional trend. Only 18 per cent of the additional volume in foreign arrivals generated by South Asia destinations will be intra-regional. Southeast Asia captures just over half of the additional foreign arrivals generated by South Asia.