KATHMANDU, Dec 31: Though Nepal´s aviation industry was criticized for many reasons and tourist arrivals via air dropped, the year 2013 can be termed a remarkable for tourism industry as it drew investment worth billions of rupees.
Ailing national flag carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) announced plan to invest around Rs 9.8 billion to purchase two Airbus A320-200.
It has also signed an agreement to buy four new planes, a 58-seater MA60 and three 19-seater Harbin Y12s, worth Rs 3.72 billion. On purchase of four aircraft, China is providing one MA60 and one Harbin Y12 worth Rs 2.94 billion to NAC free of cost.
Despite this, Nepal´s aviation sector was criticized mainly because of serious problems like potholes on the runway of the Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA), the European Union (EU) decision to ban Nepali airlines from flying to EU member countries, and lack of aviation safety, among others.
However, Ratish Chandra Lal Suman, director general of Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN), said CAAN´s revenue increased by 16.59 percent in the fiscal year 2012/13. CAAN had earned all time high revenue of Rs 3.52 billion in 2011/12.
Invitation of tender for the expansion of Bhairahawa-based Gautam Buddha Airport to a regional international airport, beginning of direct flights to Europe from Kathmandu by Turkish Air were the other important happenings in aviation industry in 2013.
Also, CAAN has received nod of the tourism ministry and the finance ministry to build a five-star airport hotel at Sinamangal under BOOT modality.
There were good signs for tourism revival as well with massive investments pouring in backed by the belief of formation of stable government. This shows Nepali s gradually heading toward tourism prosperity.
According to the Department of Industry, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in tourism swelled more than four-fold in 2012-13 to Rs 3.89 billion from Rs 837 million recorded in the previous year. Likewise, investment commitments worth Rs 100 billion have been made, according to the Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN).
“The year was a remarkable one as the country´s established conglomerates like Chaudhary Group, Golyan Group, TM Dugar Group, and Nepal Hospitality Group (NHG) — a subsidiary of the MS Group and MIT Group Holding Nepal, among others, are investing billions of rupees in the hospitality industry,” Madhav Om Shrestha, executive director of HAN, told Republica.
Tourist arrival down
The latest comparative data of the first eight months released by Immigration Office at TIA shows that tourists arrival dropped by 2.3 percent compared to the same period last year. Not only that, arrivals in the peak tourist season also went down by 7.01 percent compared to the same period last year.
Tourism stakeholders expect tourist arrivals to drop by 10 to 15 percent this year as major tourist season was hurt badly by inconsistent air fare to and from Nepal, travel advisories issued by different countries, and fears of insecurity and disturbance due to nationwide strike called by 33-party alliance before Constituent Assembly (CA) election. Lack of proper management at Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) also slowed promotional activities this year, according to industry people.
Expectations from 2014
With all things looking good and Nepal heading toward political stability, tourism entrepreneurs are optimistic that the industry will gain momentum and post growth in 2014.
A committee has recommended to the government to increase royalty fee for Mount Everest to $11,000 per person per expedition and Rs 74,000 per person, or royalty waiver, for Nepali mountaineers.
A mesmerizing view of Mt. Everest
Photo Dipesh Shrestha
It has also asked the government to open 32 new peaks for commercial expedition, officially recognize five new peaks above 8,000 meters and set up standards for recognizing mountaineering records, among others. “These suggestions are likely to be implemented in 2014,” Madhusudan Burlakoti, chief of the Tourism Industry Division, said. He also said the process to apply for registration of tourism enterprises will go online in 2014.
NAC Spokesperson Ganesh Bahadur Chand said that national flag carrier expects revival of fortune and regain its lost image with the procurement of six aircraft from China.
Shrestha of HAN said the most interesting thing will be the decentralized investment with many three and four stars hotels coming up outside the capital and beginning of construction of five-star and five-star deluxe hotels.
Besides, the amendment made to the three-decade old hotel and resort regulation is expected to lift the quality of hotels.
Trekking Agencies´ Association of Nepal (TAAN) is focusing on sanitation and agro tourism this year.
“We will be unveiling new destination like Ruby Valley and Khaptad to Rara trail and digitize Trekkers´ Information Management system (TIMS),” Ramesh Dhamala, president of TAAN, said. “We will also upgrade quality of home-stays and explore new villages to promote home-stay tourism.”
On Sunday, CAAN made amendment to the Civil Aviation Regulation 2002 through ministry level which now provides full autonomy to the director general in areas like air safety, airspace regulation, setting aviation security and standards and licensing of airlines, pilots, engineers, air traffic controllers. It has also introduced a new human resource (HR) policy that allows it to recruit experienced individuals for regulatory purposes at industry standard salaries.
“With these changes, CAAN expects to bring down the non-compliance rate with the eight areas audited by International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to the global average thereby removing all issues related to aviation safety,” said Suman.