Kathmandu, February 19:
Despite a strong will to visit Nepal, Chinese tourists from southern parts of China like Guangzhou and Shenzen are for-ced to change their itinerary and opt for other destinations due to absence of any Nepali diplomatic representation there.
The Chinese tourists visiting Nepal have to go either to Nepali consulate in Hong Kong or Shanghai or travel up to Beijing to get their visa stamped. Although Chinese tourists are entitled for a gratis-visa by Nepal, Chinaâ€™s immigration law donâ€™t allow its citizens to travel abroad without visa.
â€œMany Chinese tourists want to visit Nepal to have a different taste of adventurous journey. Many of them have already been to developed cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, Bangkok
and even to Europe and now they want to explore new destinations with difference,â€ says Weng Jinzhao, managing director at the Guangzhou Camford Company Ltd.
Since Nepal has already been listed as an outbound tourist destination by China, Weng says there is a huge potential of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal. â€œBut many of them, particularly from Southern parts including Guangzhou and Shenzen, are facing problems as they have to go to somewhere else for the visa stamping. This increases the overhead expense,â€ he adds.
Deepak Bhatta, executive chairman of Gorkha Travels, which is the sole agent of China Southern Airlines (CSA) in Nepal, also agrees that the lack of diplomatic representation in Chinaâ€™s leading trading hub like Guangzhou has resulted in low tourists arrival from China. â€œThe Chinese tourists arrival can be increased up to two to three fold, if a Nepali diplomatic representation is there to facilitate tourists and businessmen,â€ he adds.
CSA, the largest Chinese airlines, has already begun flights twice a week on Chinaâ€™s third largest metro-Guangzhou and Kathmandu route.
â€œIn addition to promoting bilateral trade between Nepal and China, the operation of CSA is expected to boost Chinese tourists arrival to Nepal.â€
Bhatta suggests that the government should now â€˜seriously considerâ€™ about having its diplomatic representation in potential metros like Guangzhou. â€œIf the government cannot immediately open a consulate office, at least an honorary consul can be appointed or some staffers from Hong Kong or Shanghai can be deputed in Guangzhou,â€ he adds.
â€œApart from tourism and leisure activities, many Chinese are interested to travel abroad for learning English language and other cultures,â€ says Weng. In the wake of Summer Olympics 2008 in Beijing, China is sending tens of thousands of Chinese to learn English abroad.
Besides visa facilitation, Weng suggests that Nepal needs to do extensive promotion of its various tourism products and destinations in China. In the domestic front, he underlines the need of improving facilities such as transportation, restaurants, training more Chinese speaking tourist guides and promotion materials in Chinese.
China is not only the fastest growing economy, it is also emerging as one of the major outbound tourist generators, as the total Chinese tourists visiting abroad crossed 35.42 million in 2006. Out of this huge number, Nepal only received 8,431 (6,531 via air) Chinese tourists. Contemplating the Chinaâ€™s GDP size of $2.68 trillion and per capita income of $1,709, the Chinese tourists arrival in Nepal is too small and insignificant.
â€œIf we could attract only less than one per cent of the total outbound-tourists from China, Nepali tourism industry can take a U-turn within a year,â€ claims Bhatta.