Kathmandu, June 9
The government has been urged to work with state tourism bodies in India to bring more tourists from the southern neighbour as many people there are still unaware of Nepal as a tourism destination.
The number of outbound travellers from India has been growing and is expected to reach 50 million by 2020. Indian travellers will be second biggest spenders after Chinese on overseas travel reaching $91 billion by 2030, as per the World Travel and Tourism Council.
It may be noted that of the 800,000 visitors that come to Nepal every year, only 8.67 per cent are from India. Moreover, the number of Indian travellers to Nepal has dropped significantly in the last two years.
In this scenario, Nepal-India Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NICCI) has recommended the government to enhance cooperation with the government of India to boost the inflow of tourists from the southern neighbour as well as encourage investment in the tourism sector.
Organising a programme titled, ‘Enhancing India-Nepal Bilateral Cooperation in Tourism’ today, NICCI has recommended some crucial steps that need to be addressed to give a boost to the tourism sector.
The Indian government has allowed two million government employees to travel to Nepal along with other South Asian nations like Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka on Leave Travel Concession (LTC) scheme. However, the programme has not been effectively implemented by the Indian government and the initiatives taken by Nepal to bring more tourists under the LTC scheme seem negligible, according to NICCI.
Similarly, improving air connectivity with Indian cities could be instrumental to increase the flow of Indian tourists in the country, as per the chamber.
At present, Nepali carriers are permitted to fly to 21 destinations in India as per the air service agreement. However, due to the fact that an aircraft is allowed to enter Nepali airspace only via Simara, it is unviable for domestic carriers to operate flights to the nearest Indian cities.
Though there are five exit points — Bhairahawa, Biratnagar, Kakarbhitta, Janakpur and Mahendranagar — for international airlines, Simara is the only entry point for aircraft flying into Nepal. NICCI has asked authorities to manage various entry points to establish air connectivity with Indian cities from Kathmandu and aforementioned exit points.
Currency has also been identified as another hassle in enhancing relations with the southern neighbour. Nepalis travelling to India cannot withdraw more than INR 10,000 per day from ATMs. On the other hand, Indians flying into Nepal are allowed to carry a maximum of INR 25,000 in cash. Moreover, those travelling via land complain of restrictions in bringing large denominations of Indian currency.
Besides, foreign nationals holding tourist visa of India with multiple entry facility should have a gap of at least two months between visits to the southern neighbour. This provision has been hindering Nepal in joining hands with Indian tourism promotion bodies for joint promotion and introducing joint travel packages.
“If India relaxes the provision, especially in tourist visa, tourists who visit India can come to Nepal as well,” as per NICCI. “Nepal and India could also jointly launch tourism promotion programmes in the global market.”
NICCI has also recommended the government of India to revoke the negative travel advisory that has been issued on travelling to Kailash Mansarover via Nepal.
Nepal and India signed a memorandum of understanding to enhance cooperation in the field of tourism on November 25, 2014, and a joint working group comprising government and private sector of both countries has been formed for the implementation of issues that are identified to boost tourism sector.
A version of this article appears in print on June 10, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.