No move to attract Japanese tourists

KATHMANDU: Annually 17 million Japanese travel abroad and around 7

million Japanese who are retiring are capable of travelling abroad this year but Nepal

lacks tourism promotion to

lure them.

According to Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA) president Ram Kaji Koney, in the years 2002 and 2003 the number of Japanese tourist coming to Nepal was 24,000. It has dwinded by more than half, with only 10,000 or so coming here.

“If there is timely destination promotion of Nepal it can definitely attract those 7 million Japanese who are retiring this year and even attract a segment of the annual 17 million who travel abroad regularly,” said Koney. Due to language problems, Japanese like to travel in groups. Therefore there should be special facilities to make them more comfortable during their travels, added Koney.

Earlier, there used to be flights from Kathmandu-Shanghai-Osaka by Nepal Airlines but now there are no direct flights for Japanese tourists. Those Japanese willing to travel to Nepal are bound to take flights from Bangkok on Thai Airways, which is quite expensive. “Thai Airways has its flight from Tokyo-Kathmandu-Tokyo which cost $1000 while flights of Air India from Delhi-Tokyo-Delhi and Tokyo-Delhi-Tokyo to Nepal cost around $500-600 only,” said Koney. He quoted tour operators as saying that the Japanese prefer to travel to European countries rather than travelling to Nepal as the flights to Europe are cheaper than those to Nepal. Flights to European countries from Japan cost around $800-900.

“Even those Japanese travelling to Nepal from Japan prefer to take flights to Pokhara as soon as they reach the Tribhuvan International Airport,” said Koney adding that now the scenario of Japanese tourists travelling to Nepal as pilgrims has also changed. He said that now they are opting for India for pilgrimages. “Nepal Tourism Board should work hard for destination promotion. Nepal is being promoted only in terms of business by some travel and tour operators. What it needs is destination promotion,” said Koney. There must be economy tour and travel packages with affordable airfare, he added.

According to him, the Japanese economy is good and they prefer nature, pilgrimage, ancient city and heritage sites here but due to pollution they are cutting short their stay period. Currently, the average stay period of Japanese tourists in Nepal is around 5 days. They still want to know more about Nepal but no initiatives are being taken to whet their curiosity and interest. NTB along with the private sector and the government should conduct destination promotion not only for Nepal Tourism Year 2011 but also for all-time tourist arrival.

However, recent tourist arrival data show Japanese tourist arrivals saw an increase of 25.1 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year.