By Dr Rajesh Kazi Shrestha
Tourism is an essential factor for the economic and social development of every country. Needless to say, tourism is a most important contributor for economic development of Nepal.
Tourism is employment-generator, thereby, income generator even in remotest areas and it helps promote local products. Nepal is one of the most popular tourist destinations of the world in terms of beautiful scenery, wildlife, culture and adventure related sports activities.
After the declaration of Belt and Road Initiative in 2013 by President Xi Jinping to revive Old Silk Road, President Xi had forwarded the concept of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road which is also known as One Belt, One Road (OBOR) for the regional cooperation, prosperity and development. The New Silk Road Economic Belt will link China with Europe through Central and Western Asia, and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will connect China with Southeast Asian countries, Africa and Europe. All the nations among the region will be benefited with the cooperation and lots of opportunities and prospects for development will be created.
Due to the rapid economic expansion of economy in China, Chinese outbound tourists are hugely increasing. China now comes to be world’s top 5 largest outbound market and the Chinese tourists are high spenders. If only small portion could be attracted to Nepal, we will have huge change in our tourism industry and national economy. Indeed, inflow of Chinese tourists are increasing in Nepal and as of to-day, the arrival figure stands next to India. We must be thankful to the Chinese government for granting Nepal as ‘Approved Destination Status (ADS)’ for Chinese outbound visitors.
Nepal-China Chamber of Commerce & Industry (NCCCI) is also focusing its activities to attract Chinese tourists in Nepal. We have signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with 29 different ‘China Council for Promotion of International Trade’ (CCPIT) and its sub-councils operating in major cities. This relations are truly fruitful in promoting our trade, tourism and overall economy.
Nepal being the birth place of ‘Gautam Buddha’ and having cultural similarities it is easier for us to attract Chinese tourists. If only Chinese Tourists visiting Tibetian Autonomous Region (TAR) could be attracted to Nepal, we could easily explore the hidden prospects of having millions of tourists from our close neighbor in the north.
We are very excited that Kathmandu-Xian direct flight is going to start which is sure to promote our tourism and economic activities. The direct air flights from Shanghai and Beijing should also be established to increase trade and tourism as well as strengthen relationship at the peoples’ level. The existing airlines operating between two countries have higher air fare in comparison to other destinations with similar distance. The air fare should be made competitive like other destinations with special packages and different offers to attract tourists.
Certainly there exists challenges on our way but success is not very far. We are aware of the fact that the Chinese government is promoting Nepal-China tourism through myriads of promotional activities in 2017.
Tourism not only promotes our social and economic activities but also boost our national economy. The existing unhealthy competition should be avoided and related stakeholders should focus on providing quality services. We are hopeful and eager to welcome more Chinese tourists in 2017 and even beyond.
(Excerpts of the speech delivered by Dr Shrestha, President, Nepal China Chamber of Commerce & Industry at an interaction on Silk Road Tourism Between China and Nepal.)
OBOR for regional cooperation, prosperity and development
By Dr Rajesh Kazi Shrestha