Japanese tourists veering eastward

KATHMANDU: High flight fares as well as lack of direct flights to Nepal are making Japanese tourists divert to other tourist destinations. People related to the tourism sector feel there is an urgent need to facilitate tourists via economy flight /fares and enhancing flight frequency to increase the number of tourist arrivals.

According to Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA) president Ram Kaji Koney, earlier there used to be direct flights to Kathmandu for Japanese tourists but since May 2006 direct flights have stopped and eastern region tourists have to route through Bangkok which is a costlier proposition compared to the then Shangai-Osaka-Kathmandu route.

“Nepal Airlines Corporation has stopped direct flights from Japan. At the same time, Thailand has introduced more economical flights and tour packages for tourists, Japanese tourist arrival in Nepal has started decreasing,” said Koney. Since two years, Thailand is making continuous progress in creating economical and quality package programmes for tourists.

Koney said, “The majority of Japanese tourists traveling to Nepal are quite young and need an economy package that is affordable. The tour package offered in the Far East region is cheaper compared to Nepal’s. Thus, Japanese tourist are diverting to Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.” Flights to destinations there have greater seat capacity and are cheaper.

Figures released by the Immigration Office, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), reveal that air arrivals in the April 2009 compared to the same month last year increased by 15.8 per cent by air only and stand at 37,819. Last April, it was 32,665. Koney also said the Nepalese embassies should give positive information regarding Nepal to tourists travelling to Nepal. “Like the Far East, we should also develop new and attractive products

and the government should increase the number of aircraft for the national airlines in order to promote Nepal Tourism Year 2011,” he urged.

Meanwhile, for the first time in 2009 the month of April witnessed positive growth in visitor arrivals to Nepal, in a way challenging the worldwide decline in tourist arrivals. Visitor arrival from nearly every market in South Asia registered positive growth. India, which occupies the largest share of arrivals in Nepal, recorded a whopping 27.3 per cent growth. Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh witnessed positive growths of 61.2, 29.4, and 1.3 per cent, respectively. Other Asian source markets: China, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and Singapore have regained the upward trend with 27.3, 68.5, 20.9, 73 and 61.3 per cent growth, respectively. The entire Europe and Oceania registered robust growth of 23.3 and 16 per cent respectively in comparison to the same

month last year.

Arrivals from Japan witnessed marginal negative growth of 1.3 per cent. Those from France and the Netherlands also registered negative growth of 3.7 and 9.4, respectively. Arrivals from Canada and the United States of America registered positive growth of 20.2 and 5.8 per cent. The remarkable growth in visitors’ arrival from India and China, immediate neighbours and major players in the intra-regional tourism sector underscores the need to focus on regional markets at a time of economic crisis.