Nepal expects steep rise in Thai visitors

published : 8 Jan 2020 at 04:01

newspaper section: News

KATHMANDU: Once Nepal's Gautam Buddha International Airport is completed in the next three to four months, the number of Thais visiting the country is likely to increase, especially to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, said Lila Bahadul Baniya, senior manager of the Nepal Tourism Board.

The Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the Monkey temple, on new year's day in Kathmandu. Dumrongkiat Mala

He was speaking as Nepal launched "Visit Nepal Year 2020" under the "Lifetime Experience" theme in a move to nearly double its yearly visitors from 1.2 million to 2 million by the end of this year.

The Nepal embassy in Bangkok, which held the event last night, hopes to boost Thai visitors to the Himalayan nation. The number of Thais visiting Lumbini last year stood at around 25,000, according to the Thai monastery.

"Tourism plays a key role in Nepal's economic development. The country was only opened to foreigners after 1951. In the last six decades, big changes have taken place in its tourism sector. As Nepal moves towards permanent peace, stability and prosperity, the government's goal is to make tourism one of the key pillars of the economy. This is why the government has declared this 'Visit Nepal Year'," said Yogesh Bhattarai, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.

Tourism contributes around 3% of Nepal's gross domestic product (GDP), and with its 15th five-year plan marching towards completion, the government aims to boost this figure to 10%.

Apart from increasing the sector's contribution to GDP, Nepal also aims to encourage foreign spending.

Currently, foreign visitors spend about $44 (1,328 baht) per day and the government is planning to boost this to at least $80.

The Nepalese government said it has put in place various measures to make the "Visit Nepal" campaign a success, including the introduction of 100 new destinations, local and international sales missions and the appointment of brand ambassadors.

It is also investing in infrastructure like roads, hotels and airports, such as the Gautam Buddha International Airport, Pokhara Regional International Airport and Nijgadh International Airport, which will help boost arrivals once completed.

Nepal has also reached an agreement with the association of non-resident Nepalese nationals to promote the country based on the "send one foreign friend to Nepal" concept.

So far, Indians have topped the list of foreign visitors to the country. As of October 2019, as many as 169,952 Indians visited Nepal, followed by 134,528 Chinese tourists.

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