CNP in ’35 amazing national parks on earth’ list


KATHMANDU, June 7: Have you visited Chitwan National Park (CNP)? If not it´s high time you made plan to visit one of the best protected areas in the country as CNP has been listed as the ´35 most amazing national parks on earth´ by the US-based online news aggregator and blog – Huffington Post.

Huffington Post has ranked CNP in 19th position. 

“Outside of Africa, there are few parks that offer the variety of large, exotic animals as Nepal´s Chitwan National Park: rhinos, cloud leopards, monkeys, and one of the highest concentrations of Bengal tigers in the world. Can you imagine a better place for your first safari?” writes the Huffington Post.

Arenal Volcano National Park of Costa Rica tops the list. National parks from countries like China, USA, Australia, Columbia, Tanzania, Ecuador, Argentina, South Africa, Norway, Venezuela, Namibia, New Zealand, Chile and Canada, among others, have made it to the list.

CNP is famous for different wildlife activities like wildlife, bird watching, jungle safari and canoeing. It is a popular destination in the country for both domestic and international visitors.

“We are happy that CNP has found a place in the list of amazing national parks to visit,” Suman Ghimire, general secretary of the Hotel Association Nepal´s Chitwan Regional Chapter, said. “We hope this will increase the flow of tourists to Chitwan,”

As Sauraha is mostly focused on jungle activities, hoteliers are hopeful that CNP´s new feat would help draw more tourists.

To attract more tourists, different associations like Regional Hotel Association, Chitwan, Restaurant and Bar Association of Nepal (REBAN) Sauraha Chapter and the locals are all geared up to bring out various changes in Sauraha. According to Regional Hotel Association, Chitwan, ´Sauraha Tourism Master Plan´ is currently under implementation at an estimated cost of Rs 45 million to Rs 60 million.

“The master plan includes widening of roads by 2 meters on each side, development of tourist bus park, effective drainage system, development of green belt on both sides of the road, and installation of street lights among others,” Narayan Bhattarai, president of the association, said, adding that the locals as well as entrepreneurs were dedicated to make Chitwan better.

Many hotels and lodges are being opened in Sauraha to cater to domestic as well as international tourists. Sauraha´s first two-star hotel, Hotel Seven Star, came into operation in September. Likewise, Green Park, Landmark, Sutanchuli and Central Park are the other new hotels that came into service last year bringing the total number of hotels to 90.


Visit Nepal in 2015 to climb mountains in Nepal

The government has reduced the royalty fee for foreigners climbing Mt Everest from the normal route, also known as the South East Ridge, to US$ 11,000 per person with effect from January1 2015. It has also eliminated the existing group royalty system. Under the group royalty system, foreign climbers had to pay as high as $25,000. The government published the new royalty fee structure in the Gazette published on Wednesday. According to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA), the government reduced the royalty fee based on the suggestion of a committee that it formed last year to recommend revision in mountaineering royalty fee.

Royalty fee for other mountains have also been lowered. Now onwards, foreign climbers need to pay royalty fee in range of $70 to $1,800 per person depending on the height of the mountains they are climbing.

“Individual climbers will benefit from the fresh revision as the individual royalty fee has come down drastically,” Madhu Sudan Burlakoti, joint secretary of MoCTCA, who heads the Tourism Industry Division (TID), told Republica.

Earlier, expedition teams were paying permit fee in the range of $15,000-$70,000 per expedition depending on the route and the number of members. A group could have a maximum of seven members and extra members were charged $10,000 each. Expedition to Mt Everest could have a maximum of 15 members.

“We decided to eliminate the group royalty system to control anomalies like merging different groups into a big group by expedition operators,” Mohan Krishna Sapkota, spokesperson of MoCTCA, said. “Though they apply as a group while seeking permit, they used to form separate groups before beginning their assault on the mountain.” He further added that the new system would benefit the individual climbers as well as the government.

A mesmerizing view of Mt. Everest  Photo Dipesh Shrestha

A mesmerizing view of Mt. Everest
Photo Dipesh Shrestha

Sapkota also said they were holding talks with the stakeholders to introduce a provision of ´one climber, one guide´ considering the safety of the climbers.
As per the new provision, Nepali climbers can pay permit fee in local currency. Earlier, they were required to pay in US dollar. Permit fee for Nepali climbers have been fixed between Rs 1,000 to Rs 75,000 per person depending on the height, route and the climbing season. They can also apply to the government for royalty waiver.

Earlier, Nepali climbers used to climb Mt Everest as mountain guides as the royalty fee was high. Also, they had to go through a lengthy procedure for royalty waiver. “The new royalty fee system will encourage more Nepalis to climb Mt Everest,” said Burlakoti. The new royalty fee structure for Nepali climbers will come into effect from Thursday

More tourists visiting Nepal for mountain biking


KATHMANDU, Feb 1: The number of tourists coming to Nepal for mountain biking has tripled over the last three years.

Ranjan Rajbhandari, director of Nepal Mountain Bike Tours, said the number of foreigners as well as Nepalis preferring mountain biking has shot up mainly because of increasing public consciousness about health and shortening of trekking trails.

“Our record shows that around 20 percent of the tourists visiting Nepal go for mountain biking compared to around eight to 10 percent in 2009/10,” said Rajbhandari who is also the executive member of Trekking Agencies´ Association of Nepal (TAAN).

According to figure compiled by TAAN, around 120,000 tourists went for mountain biking in 2011/12 compared to around 40,000 in 2009/10. “The number has been increasing constantly,” added Rajbhandari.

aThe company which started its operation in 2005 operates mountain biking in Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara, Daman, Hetauda, Chitwan, Lumbini, Tansen, Mustang and Jomsom to Muktinath, among others.

The company charges Rs 1,000 per day for Nepalis which includes cycle only while it charges Rs 5,000 for foreigners that include cycle, lunch and a guide facility.
Foreigners, however, have to pay Rs 3,000 extra for accommodation in case they have to stay at various places while cycling.

Mountain bike tour operators said almost 20 percent of the total tourists visiting Nepal went for mountain biking in 2011/12. During the year 2009/10, around eight percent tourists were mountain-bikers.                                                               mountain biking in Nepal

According to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) in 2012, number of tourists coming for trekking and mountaineering has jumped to 105,015 from 70,218 recorded in 2010.

However, the data does not separate the tourists coming for mountain biking.  Mountain biking in Nepal is usually carried out up to an altitude of 4,500 meters.
However some companies even offer biking services to Thorong La Pass which is at the height of 5,416 meters.
Nepal is considered as the best destination for mountain biking.

The number of tourists preferring mountain biking in Nepal increased noticeably after the government recognized mountain biking as adventure sports for Nepal Tourism Year 2011 campaign.

“With the recognition of mountain biking as sports tourism, the number of tourists coming for mountain biking has started to increase,” said Jagan Biswokarma, manager of Pokhara Mountain Bike Adventure (PMBA).

PMBA which started its operation in 2004 offers high altitude mountain biking from 2,800 meters in Jomsom to 5,416 meters in Thorong La Pass. The charge ranges from Rs 500 to Rs 1,500 per day depending on the location.


KATHMANDU, Jan 8: Poor visibility caused cancellation of more than 50 flights across the country on Wednesday. Dense fog also delayed number of flights to different parts of the country.

According to the Terminal Duty Office (TDO) at Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA), flights to most of the Tarai districts have been badly affected mainly due to poor visibility since Monday.

Around 50 flights to Tumlingtar, Bhadrapur, Biratnagar, Janakpur, Bhairahawa, Simara and Dhangadi were cancelled on Wednesday. Similarly, dozens of flights were delayed.
Dinesh Shrestha, general manager of TIA, said poor visibility led to cancellation of flights on the day.



As per the prescribed ground visibility norm, flights are operated when ground visibility is 5 km. But as per the visual flight rules (VFR), pilots can operate an aircraft in weather conditions if they see where the aircraft is going.

Roshan Regmi, marketing manager of Yeti Airlines, said flights to Biratnagar, Dhangadi, Bhadrapur, Tumlingtar, Janakpur and Simara were cancelled on Wednesday. “Similarly, flights to Pokhara, Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa and Bharatpur were delayed,” Regmi said. “We, however, operated mountain flights and flights to Lukla.”

Buddha Air canceled its flights to Biratnagar, Bhadrapur, Nepalgunj, Bhairahawa, Simara, Tumlingtar and Dhangadi. It, however, operated some mountain flights and flights to Janakpur and Pokhara.

Meteorologist Subash Rimal of Meteorology Forecasting Division said cold wave in some parts of the eastern region was the reason behind poor visibility. “Weather conditions might improve from Thursday,” he added.

“Cancellation of flights during mid-December to mid-January is a normal phenomenon,” Shrestha said, adding that around 200 flights take off and land at TIA every day. “But the number is down during winter,” he added.

Domestic airlines operate aircraft with seats ranging from 19 to 72. Cancellation of 50 flights means thousands of passengers were affected on the day. Airlines also faced loss worth hundreds of thousands of rupees.

Tourist arrivals down 5 percent in December


Tourist arrivals via air went down by 4.9 percent in December compared to figures of the same month last year.

According to Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) Immigration Office, a total of 42,601 international visitors landed at TIA during the month.

Tourism stakeholders have termed the year 2013 a bad year for tourism, saying that this is the first time arrivals had gone down since 2006. “Though we are yet to get overall arrivals figures of 2013, our estimate shows arrivals went down by around 10 percent during the year,” Pabitra Kumar Karki, president of Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA), said.

According to industry people, a series of issues like the Constituent Assembly (CA) election and strikes by anti-poll parties during the peak season, European Commission´s (EC) ban on Nepali airlines citing safety issues, runway problem at TIA, increase in number of air accidents, and lack of tourism promotion in international market due to the absence of CEO in Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) affected arrivals this year.

Though total arrivals went down in December, number of tourists from SAARC region increased by 1.6 percent to 13,521. Rise in arrivals from the SAARC region was mainly due to increment in the number of tourists from Bangladesh (40.3 percent) and Sri Lanka (49.4 percent). Arrivals from India (1 percent) and Pakistan (67.2 percent) went down during the review month.

The Asian segment, other than SAARC region, showed negative growth by 3.1 percent, while arrivals from Europe went down by 8.7 percent. Similarly, tourist arrivals from the US fell by 6.1 percent.

Though the number of foreign tourists went down during the month, officials of Trekking Agencies´ Association of Nepal (TAAN) said the number of trekkers were up in December. “Though we are yet to get the final data, number of trekkers buying Trekkers Information Management System (TIMS) card has increased by around 1,500,” Ramesh Dhamala, president of TAAN, told Republica.

According to NTB, the drop in number of tourist reflects the volatile nature of international tourist movement which is easily affected by factors such as the cost of traveling, situation at the destination country, global economic trends and traveling spirit of international visitors.

“Lack of confidence among tour operators to guarantee security of tourists during peak season, higher air fare and problems of the national flag carrier Nepal Airlines Corporation also affected the number of arrivals this year mainly during peak seasons,” added Karki.


Govt to prepare profile of 326 peaks




KATHMANDU, Jan 2: The government is preparing to make detailed profile of all the mountain peaks opened for commercial expedition.

According to officials, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has already held talks with concerned stakeholders to prepare profile of 326 mountain peaks opened for expedition.

“As we do not have detailed information of the peaks opened for mountaineering, we decided to prepare profile of all the peaks opened for commercial expedition. We have already held a meeting with concerned stakeholders regarding this,” Madhu Sudan Burlakoti, joint secretary of MoCTCA, told Republica.

For the purpose, the government has formed a committee comprising representatives from Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), Department of Survey, Trekking Agencies´ Association of Nepal (TAAN), Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), Nepal National Mountain Guide Association (NNMGA) as well as the tourism ministry. Ang Tshering Sherpa, honorary member of World Mountaineering and Climbing Federation (UIAA) is also in the committee.

“We will soon give official recognition to the committee and form a working committee to find details of all the 326 peaks,” said Burlakoti.

A technical team former under the ministry recently recommended to the government to remove 16 peaks form the list of 326 peaks. Of the 16 peaks, 11 peaks have two different names, four are just viewpoints and one peak doesn´t exist at all.

If the 16 peaks are removed from the list as per the recommendation, the government will prepare profile of only 310 peaks.
According to officials, the detailed profile will include basic information of the mountains like name, location, height, latitude and longitude, climbing routes, and the best time to climb the peak, among others. It will also have different pictures of the peaks.

In the first phase, the committee will prepare profile of peaks above 6,000 meters.
Burlakoti said it will take three to four years to complete the work.

“The most difficult part is finding the picture,” Burlakoti said, adding, “As it is not possible to go and take the picture of all the peaks, we have to request national and international photographers and even tourists guides to send us the pictures.”

A roller-coaster year for tourism, aviation


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

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.