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  Nepal News January 2004

Nepal witness 23% growth in visitor arrivals in 2003

A total of 265,600 visitors came to Nepal by air in 2003, which is a growth by 23% in comparison to last year’s figure. Again the comparison of year on year basis with last year indicates an encouraging growth for all the countries. India market had an annual growth of 33% to 87,066 visitors and non Indian grew by 19% to 178,534 visitors in 2003.

December 2003 observed a growth of 42% in visitors arrival by air in Nepal compared to same month last year. 25,995 visitors came to Nepal by air during the month which include 8,550 Indian visitors and 17,445 non Indians, which grew by 27% and 51% respectively. Out of 24 countries listed in the data supplied by Department of Immigration, 22 (excepting Austria and Sri-Lanka) have shown remarkable growth in arrival numbers. Nepal’s major market viz. UK, Germany, Japan, USA and other European countries have all shown healthy growth in arrivals.

Conducive government policies, programs to promote tourism in the national level, declaration of cease fire from January to August and collaborative marketing efforts of Nepal Tourism Board with airlines, associations and travel trade all led to the positive outcomes for the growth of tourist numbers in the country.

Destination Nepal Campaign 2002-03 launched by HMG to specially boost tourism and various events under the campaign helped to keep up the pace of marketing and promotional activities of the country. Mount Everest Golden Jubilee Celebrations was quite successful in adding a big milestone in enhancing the image of Nepal. Besides, government decision to waive visa fees for SAARC and Chinese nationals, opening up of 123 new peaks for climbing, restricted areas for trekking and five new rivers for rafting created new avenues for tourism development and increase in tourist numbers.

The contribution of private sectors, airlines (specially RNAC, Indian Airlines and others) and associations to enhance the growth in 2003 were evident from success of Pashupatinath Darshan Package, sales missions to India & China and Five Star Summer Getaway Package (launched in association with RNAC and 5-star hotels) in India. These activities have all helped in adding more numbers.

And now with government commitment to promote regional tourism in 2004, and more liberal policies on airlines, tourism scenario in Nepal looks even better. With the continuous support and co-operation from government, private sector and airlines, Nepal Tourism Board hopes to see another average 25% growth in visitors numbers in 2004 and onwards.

Highlights: International Visitors Arrivals (by air) for Jan-Dec 2003
· India up 33% to 87,066 visitors
· US up 8% to 1,6675 visitors
· UK up 11% to 19,260 visitors
· Spain up 80% to 6,407 visitors
· France up 59% to 718 visitors
· Japan up 9% to 19,551 visitors
· China up 27% to 4,418 visitors

However, compared to visitor arrival by air in 1999, the figures in 2003 are still lower by 36%. The total number of visitors arriving to Nepal by air in 1999 was 421, 243; this means 2003 figures are still short of 155,643 visitors in comparison to 1999. This further indicates that if 1999 is considered as base year, there is still a huge gap to fill for the recovery of tourism in Nepal.

NTB celebrate Fifth Anniversary

Nepal Tourism Board observed its 5th Anniversary on December 31 amidst a grand function. A large number of tourism entrepreneurs, high government officials and media persons were gathered at NTB to celebrate this function.

Chief guest of the function Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) Sarvendra Nath Shukla addressing the function said that all the stakeholders should work together to promote the tourism industry that makes significant contribution to the national economy and further added that since the tourism business is very sensitive, it can be affected badly if the political parties resort to vandalism and destructive activities.
"Since the government’s efforts alone may not be enough to curb such activities, the private sector should also try to forge understanding with the agitating forces to declare ‘no demonstration zones’ in the tourist areas," he said.

He said the government has adopted an open sky policy to encourage private and international airlines to increase the flow of tourists from potential markets. He said that the success of the NTB within a short span of time was a result of effective approach of public/ private partnership.

Secretary at the MoCTCA Lava Kumar Devkota said that the available resources should be mobilised in effective manner to receive better results in the national economy. Tek Bahadur Dangi, Chief Executive Officer of the NTB, presenting a brief power-point on its achievements and future plans said  NTB could plan for a long term strategy if the government provided fix budget which reduced its dependency on two percent Tourism Service Fee which fluctuates with the arrival of tourists. He also urged the government to increase its investment to promote tourism industry. Dangi said that the cease-fire between the government and the Maoist rebels is a must and national image should be improved to attract more tourists to the country.

Talking about the slight improvement in tourist arrival trend in 2003, he said that it had been possible due to aggressive marketing by the government as well as the private sector along with various events during the time in spite of the adverse situation. Subash Nirola, Director of Tourism Products and Resource Development, at the NTB said that the Board had to do a Herculean task to promote tourism industry with the limited resources.

During the programme, Vice-Chairperson of NTB Ambica Shrestha said the money given to tourism industry should be taken as investment by the government  rather than donation.

At the function, Minister Shukla felicitated top tourist service fee payers for the year 2003. Hotel Yak and Yeti, Soltee Crown Plaza, Hyatt Regency, Hotel De’la Annapurna, Manakamana Darshan P. Ltd., Hotel Shangrila, Hotel Dwarika’s, Hotel Radission, Nanglo Bekary Café and Summit Hotel were awarded as the top ten tax payers to the NTB through the revenue collection office.

Likewise, Yeti Travels P. Ltd, Thamserku Trekking Pvt. Ltd. and Himalayan Rafting Expedition Pvt. Ltd. were awarded as the top tax payers among travel, trekking and rafting companies respectively.

Destination of the Week

Sirubari:  Gurung hamlet
Sirubari village is a totally unspoiled Gurung settlement set in the hills at 1700 meters above sea level. Sirubari village is a short drive and walk from Pokhara, the major tourist centre for the Annapurna region. It can be reached from Lumbini following Siddhartha Highway. Sirubari is a unique example of eco-cultural tourism in Nepal managed by local people. There is regular flight between Kathmandu and Pokhara and is well connected by road with Kathmandu.

The Gurungs celebrate colourful festivals of both the Hindus and the Buddhists throughout the year. And what attributes the Gurung community in a way are their Ghantu and Rhodi dances. Young girls are selected to perform the Ghantu dance that marks the herald of spring. A duet called Rhodi is sung by a group of boys and girls followed up by dances in folk rhythm. The vibrant traditional rituals of the Gurung community are there to give an instant sense of Nepali folk culture to the tourists. Equally captivating to the tourists is the panoramic view of the Annapurna massif including Machhapuchre, Manaslu, Dhaulagiri and Nilgiri mountain peaks to the north, the lush green river basins to the south and picturesque villages like Aruchour and Darau next to it.
In the past touring in Nepal has meant either trekking along the trails or staying in specially built resorts. Getting to know the locals and their culture has been difficult. In Sirubari, one can experience a stay in an unspoiled village living as a family member. You will be welcomed into the community and invited to stay in the home of one of the village families. Each night there will be entertainment programme provided by the community. This will be in the form of traditional Gurung and Nepali dancing and singing.

The accommodation is simple but comfortable with clean room with good beds as well as clean toilet facilities (squat toilets). The food is delicious and you will be eating your meals as one of the family. During your stay, you will be able to feel what it is like to live the life of a Nepali villager. Walk with your family while they go about their daily chores, tending animals, tilling the fields, or simply sitting in the sun talking to the neighbours. Feel free to wander, safely, by yourself and look at all of the developments that the community have supported and funded. And, at the end of the stay, you will be overwhelmed by the farewell that your new family will give you. Even if you never come this way again, the village and its people will remain in your heart forever.

Nepal Tourism Board’s entry “Sirubari Village Tourism Project” won the prestigious PATA Gold Award in heritage and culture category. The award was  presented at the 51st Annual Conference of PATA in Malaysia on 9 April, 2001.

Gurung New Year
Gurung community throughout the world observe  Tammu Lochhar celebrations on December 30.  The Gurung (Tamu) National Council  organised the gala function on December 30, 2003 where thousands of Gurungs living in the Kathmandu Valley thronged there to celebrate it. Just like the Chinese New Year and Tibetan Lhosar, the Tamu Lhocchar marks the beginning of the Tamu Sambat or Gurung calendar year. Lhocchar also heralds the change in "Lho", the oriental zodiac sign and this festival marked the beginning of "Year of Monkey" and the end of the "Year of Sheep".

According to oriental astrological system, there are 12 Lho’s - mouse, bull/cow, tiger, rabbit/cat, dragon/divine, serpent, horse, sheep, monkey, hen, dog, and pig. A Lho returns after the twelve-year cycle.

What you won't get: Hot showers, television, bottled beer, hamburgers, and thousands of tourists. What you will get: Delicious local food and drink, comfortable accommodation (clean room, clean beds, clean toilet), a welcome like you have never had before and the cultural experience of a lifetime, intimacy and friendship.

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