Recent drop in foreign tourist arrivals in Nepal has affected tourism sector in Indian cities like Sikkim and Darjeeling as well as Bhutan.
“The recent downward trend began since December 2012. Beside unfavorable travel advices from different countries in western world, the decision of European Union (EU) to ban all airlines from Nepal from flying into the 28-nation bloc played a major negative role behind the downfall,” leading Indian daily The Economic Times reported.
According to arrival figures released by Immigration Office at Tribhuvan International Airport, arrival from European countries went down by 13.27 percent. Visitor arrivals from countries like United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands France and Germany went down by 10.24 percent, 3.50 percent, 24.64 percent, 13.90 percent, 16.25 percent and 17.85 percent, respectively.
“It is not only a matter of concern for them in Nepal only. But for us in India too,” the daily quoted veteran tourism advisor Mr R Basu.
According to the daily, Darjeeling and Sikkim receive around 50,000 foreign and 500,000 domestic visitors per annum. “Though head count wise just one tenth of domestic visitors, the foreign visitors form lions share in annual rupee value business of Rs 3.5 billion for this region. And this premium class tourist’s visit here is highly dependent on their arrival to Nepal,” the daily said.
Nepal travel and trekking companies operate groups to Indian tourist destinations like Sikkim, Darjeeling and Ladakh as well as neighboring Bhutan and Tibet.
“At least 40 percent of the International travelers arriving any place in eastern Himalayan region comprising circles of Nepal, Bhutan or NE India combine up at least two circles. Naturally, FTA in Nepal builds a huge portion of business volume for Sikkim, other north Indian states or Bhutan,” the daily quoted S Roy, Secretary of Eastern Himalayan Tour and Travel Operators Association (EHTTOA).
To arrest the decline in tourist arrivals, tourism stakeholders of India have suggested forging proper synergy in Nepal-India joint tourism promotion and infrastructure development. “We have huge volume of untapped potential here. We can project Nepal and eastern India as a joint and common circuit increasing premium class guest’s count and their trip duration for both the countries,” Basu told the daily, adding, “As we have estimated, this can give a 300 percent growth to the number of foreign visitors in eastern India.”