India may include Nepal in LTC program

India is preparing to allow its government employees to travel to Nepal under leave travel concession (LTC).

India is preparing to allow its government employees to travel to Nepal under leave travel concession (LTC).

According to news reports, the India is mulling a proposal to provided LTC for government employees to four countries – Nepal, Bhutan, the Maldives and Sri Lanka – to boost tourism in the neighborhood. “The LTC will be modeled on the schemes for the north-east and Jammu & Kashmir which helped increase tourism and fueled economic improvement in the two regions,” a news report in Times of India states.

Under LTC, the Indian government provides different facilities to government employees to travel to different parts of the country as part of incentives.

“Introducing LTC for 2 million government employees could encourage greater people to people exchange among the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries. But there will have to be some reciprocal arrangement. We are working on that,” the newspaper quoted an official with India’s tourism ministry as saying.

Speaking at the SAARC Summit held recently in Kathmandu, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had emphasized on better connectivity in the region. “It is still harder to travel within our region than to Bangkok or Singapore; and, more expensive to speak to each other,” he had said.

Arrivals from India account for about one-third of total tourist arrivals in Nepal.

ASA with five countries on cards

The government is preparing to sign Air Service Agreement (ASA) with five countries and review existing ASAs with three others.

The government is preparing to sign Air Service Agreement (ASA) with five countries and review existing ASAs with three others.

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) is preparing to sign ASAs with Australia, Vietnam, Combodia, New Zealand and Iceland. Similarly, preparations are underway to review ASAs with Oman, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia.

Officials say the ministry was preparing to sign ASA with Australia taking into consideration rising air traffic, especially students, between Kathmandu and different Australian cities.

Number of Australian tourists increased by 16.5 percent to 18,746 in 2012.

Similarly, officials say ASAs with Cambodia and Vietnam will help to bring more tourists to Lumbini as these countries are considered predominantly Buddhist nations. They say ASAs with New Zealand and Iceland might be helpful in bringing tourists from these counties.

The government is reviewing ASAs with Saudi Arabia, Oman and Malaysia to make available more seats between Kathmandu and designated cities of these countries. Oman Air is flying between Kathmandu and Muscat. Similarly, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) had started preparations to fly to Dammam of Saudi Arabia in the past. But it couldn’t materialize.

ASA with Malaysia is being reviewed due to growing demand for air seats between Kathmandu and Malaysia. The existing ASA allows designated airlines of both the countries to operate a maximum of 21 flights a week. Malaysian airlines are already operating 21 flights a week.

At present, NAC, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia X are operating on Kathmandu-Malaysia route. Another Malaysian carrier Malindo Air has already received temporary permission to operate daily flights on the sector. Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) will make the temporary permit permanent once more flights are allowed on the route by revising the existing ASAs.

Nepal has signed ASA with 36 countries and European Union (EU) so far. At present, 26 international airlines link Kathmandu with different cities across the world.

India opening Nathu La for pilgrims from June next year

India is preparing to allow its pilgrims to visit Kailash Mansarovar area in Tibetan Autonomous Region of China through the Nathu La route in Sikkim from next year.

India is preparing to allow its pilgrims to visit Kailash Mansarovar area in Tibetan Autonomous Region of China through the Nathu La route in Sikkim from next year.

According to a Press Trust of India (PTI) report, the union and Sikkim governments were aiming at having the first batch of pilgrims visiting Kailash Mansarovar using the new route in June 2015.

India and China signed a bilateral agreement on Nathu La route on September 18. As per the agreement, Indian pilgrims can visit Kailash Mansarovar area through the Nathula route in addition to the existing Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand.

As the Lipulekh Pass route is extremely difficult, many Indian tourists come to Nepal and embark on Kailash Mansarovar area via Tatopani (Sindhupalchowk) or Hilsa (Humla) entry points.

According to PTI, two senior officials from India’s Ministry of External Affairs recently visited Sikkim to examine the state’s infrastructural preparedness. The officials have reportedly identified two places — 17th Mile and Sherathang – on the JN Road as acclimatization centers for the pilgrims, the news report stated.

The route through Nathu La will pass through Shigatse and then move toward Kailash-Mansarovar area. Through the new route, pilgrims can drive all the way to Kailash-Mansarovar.

Meanwhile, India is sending a team of officials to Kailash-Mansarovar via Nathu La Pass on a trial run in March next year.

The opening of new route could hamper business of Nepali trekking companies who send large number of Indian pilgrims to Kailash-Mansarovar via Tatopani and Hilsa points during June-August. It takes around eight days to travel to Kailash-Mansarovar via Nathu La. Form Nepali side, the tour can be completed in around 10 days.

Khumbu 6th in Lonely Planet’s ‘Top 10 Regions to Explore in 2015? list

Popular travel guidebook Lonely Planet has included Khumbu, which is popularly known as the Everest region, in its ‘Top 10 Regions to Explore in 2015? list.

Popular travel guidebook Lonely Planet has included Khumbu, which is popularly known as the Everest region, in its ‘Top 10 Regions to Explore in 2015? list.

Khumbu is in the sixth position in the list.

“Everest is a classic journey following the footsteps of Tenzing and Hillary into the planet’s most jaw-dropping mountain arena, home to the world’s highest peak. With Nepal’s Maoist uprising firmly behind it, trekkers are rediscovering the region’s remoter trails,” the guidebook writes, adding, “Try the high-altitude Three Passes trek or adventurous Mera Peak expedition. And since 2015 marks a half-century since Major Jimmy Roberts organized the first commercial trek in Nepal, it might be time to dust off those trekking boots.”

“If you want something more authentic, tread the old-school approach routes to Everest from Jiri and Tumlingtar, along parts of the 1700km-long Great Himalaya Trail.”

Gallipoli of Turkey features at the top of the list followed by Rocky Mountain National Park of US, Toledo of Belize, Tasmania of Australia and Arctic Norway of Norway. Similarly, The Copper Canyon of Mexico, Flores of Indonesia, Atacama Desert of Chile and Macau of China are in the seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth position, respectively.

Ebola virus affecting tourism: Travel agents

Tourists are turning away from Africa in their droves after the Ebola outbreak and are cancelling trips including those to destinations thousands of miles away from the nearest infected community.

Ebola

A health worker screening a passenger at an airport in Nigeria in this recent photo. (Photo: FoxNews.Com)

Tourists are turning away from Africa in their droves after the Ebola outbreak and are cancelling trips including those to destinations thousands of miles away from the nearest infected community.

Most of the cancellations are from Asia but visitors from the United States, Brazil and Europe have cancelled or postponed trips to the region, tour operators have reported.

“We’ve seen a huge amount of cancellations from Asia and the groups that do travel, the numbers have dropped,” says Hammes Boshoff, managing director at Johannesburg-based ERM Tours, which organizes travel to countries in southern Africa.

He said about 80 percent of his Asian customers had cancelled trips over the coming two to three months, including a group booking of 1,500 visitors from Thailand worth 12 million rand (€840,000).

“A lot of customers just see Africa. They see it as one country. I try and tell people that Europe and America are closer to the Ebola outbreak than South Africa,” Boshoff said. Agents say Asians, who have lived through the deadly Sars epidemic and, more recently, a pandemic of H1N1 flu, do not want to take risks.

The Ebola virus has claimed more than 1,200 victims and can kill up to 90 percent of those it infects. There have been reported cases in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, as well as a tiny outbreak in Nigeria and a suspected one in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The World Health Organization says most infections in the west Africa states are taking place in the community when family members or friends take care of someone who is ill or when funeral preparation and burial ceremonies do not follow strict infection prevention and control measures.

A second important place where transmission can occur is in clinics and other health care settings, when health care workers, patients, and other persons have unprotected contact with a person who is infected. In Nigeria, cases are related only to persons who had direct contact with a single traveler who was hospitalized upon arrival in Lagos.

(EuroNews)