KATHMANDU: The year 2009 ended on positive notes both in terms of total visitor arrivals for the month of December and also for the whole year. Figures released by Immigration Office, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), reveal that visitor arrivals in the month of December 2009, compared to the same month last year, increased by 4.4 per cent to 31,396. Also, the total number of visitor arrivals in aggregate (from January to December), compared to the same time period in 2008, increased by 1.1 per cent to 378,712. A total of 374,661 visitors arrived in Nepal by air in 2008.

In December 2009, there was a robust growth of 51.4 per cent in visitor arrivals from China. Arrivals from Asia (other than South Asia) recorded positive growth. Visitor arrivals from South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand registered a positive growth of 25.1 per cent, 7.8 per cent, 22 per cent and 26.5 per cent, respectively. However, Japan suffered a soft decline by 1 per cent . In aggregate, the Asian segment (other than South Asia) registered a positive growth of 19.4 per cent in the month of December and 10.1 per cent in the year 2009.

In the SAARC region, arrivals from Pakistan grew by 8.2 per cent but arrivals from India and Sri Lanka declined by 5 per cent and 31.5 per cent, respectively, in December 2009. In aggregate, the South Asian segment registered a negative growth of 4.3 per cent in the month of December and 2.5 per cent in the year 2009.

An overall positive growth of 10.1 per cent was observed from the European markets for the month of December 2009 and 4.5 per cent in the year 2009. Arrivals from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria went up by 2.2 per cent, 4.3 per cent, 1.9 per cent, 30.6 per cent, 14.2 per cent and 37.1 per cent, respectively. Furthermore, arrivals from Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland registered a marginal growth. However, Spain, Denmark and Norway posted a nominal negative growth.

Tourist arrivals from Australia, Canada and the USA also registered remarkable growth of 13.8 per cent, 5 per cent and 10.9 per cent respectively. However the ‘Others’ category witnessed a negative growth of 18.4 per cent in the month of December and 21.1 per cent in 2009.

More than 75,058 trekkers visited Annapurna region in 2009 (this is derived from the number of permits issued by Annapurna Conservation Area Project offices in Kathmandu and Pokhara). Similarly, 1769 trekkers visited Manaslu region in 2009.

According to the UNWTO Tourism Barometer published in October 2009, till August international tourism demand declined by 7 per cent compared to the same period of last year. If this general trend continued through the remainder of the year, full year results were expected to show a decline in arrivals from 4 per cent to 6 per cent. However, Nepal has enjoyed sustained positive growth in international tourist arrivals since June 2009, although the year started with negative growth of 15.8 per cent in January 2009.