We could expect a good turnout of foreign visitors if the government were to relax the health protocol

We could expect a good turnout of foreign visitors if the government were to relax the health protocol

It's good to hear that international passengers' movement at the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) has been steadily increasing, bringing good business to both Nepali and foreign airline companies.

Altogether 103,379 passengers had flown on the international sector in January this year, compared to 66,000 passengers in December last year, a surge of more than 50 per cent. The coronavirus that started spreading with the start of the New Year in 2020 and the subsequent months-long lockdown and airport closure had telling impact on air travel, both international and domestic. As a result, there was a 72 per cent slump in international air passengers last year due to the COVID-19. According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), compared to the initial period when the airport was opened for commercial international flights, passenger movement now is encouraging.

The growth in international passengers' movement should, in particular, thrill the national flag carrier, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), that has taken a huge loan worth billions of rupees to purchase four brand new aircraft, including two wide-bodied planes, but has had to keep them grounded for months due to the pandemic. Among the airlines operating on the international sector, Nepal Airlines, Qatar Airways and Himalayan Airlines have flown the highest number of passengers. In January, NAC operated 178 flights flying 23,459 passengers against 19,988 passengers the previous month.

Qatar operated 144 flights last month and carried 16,947 passengers while Himalayan Airlines carried 14,591 passengers on 163 flights. Apart from mostly Nepalis who made up the passengers on these international flights, there has been a trickle of foreign visitors to Nepal also after the resumption of international flights as well as trekking in October in Nepal.

According to the Department of Immigration, Nepal welcomed 8,874 foreign tourists in January this year, the highest in a months since the nationwide lockdown in March last year. They came from 121 countries, although the majority were from India, China, the US, UK and Turkey. With the spring mountaineering and trekking season just round the corner, we could expect a good turnout of foreign visitors if the government were to relax the health protocol that it had enforced in view of the COVID-19.There is a lot of confusion about what is required to visit this country. There have been so many revisions in the health protocol time and again for different categories of people, both Nepalis and foreigners, that no one would want to take the risk to visit the country. Tourism entrepreneurs and Nepal Tourism Board have asked the government to provide, if nothing else, on-arrival visa to foreigners and allow them to travel freely inside the country should they test negative for the PCR test that they will have to undergo on arrival here. The government has not been able to take an appropriate decision largely due to lack of coordination between the Ministries of Health and Tourism. However, in a bid to give a boost to the tourism industry, the government is said to be thinking of allowing tourists who have been inoculated unrestricted entry to the country.

Save Ganga's life

It is frustrating to see Ganga Maya Adhikari, 61, is staging a fast-onto-death for nearly two months now, demanding justice for her son, Krishna Prasad, 18, who was killed by the Maoist rebels 17 years ago.

It may be recalled that Ganga Maya's husband Nanda Prasad also died in September 2014 during a similar hunger strike. Since Krishna Prasad was killed by the Maoist rebels, his parents have been demanding that the culprit be booked and his son be given justice.

It has been established that Rudra Prasad Acharya is the main accused in Krishna's murder case. However, Acharya is said to be hiding in a foreign country since the incident. Earlier, the government had given assurances that justice would be given to her son.

Her son will get justice only when the government is able to bring home the accused from abroad and present him before the court. In this case, the government needs to use its diplomatic clout to bring the accused back home for trial. Until the main culprit is punished, it is the duty of the government to ensure good medical facilities as her health is deteriorating day-by-day. It would also be good to form a high-level committee with members from the civil society to address her demands.

A version of this article appears in the print on February 18, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.