Nepal to sign air service agreements with other countries including China


Interview with Tourism Secretary Dinesh Chandra Thapaliya:ic

How is the status of Nepalese tourism sector after the earthquake and current political turmoil in Terai? You are appointed in this significant post in this critical situation. How can we take our aviation and tourism in the previous stage?

Tourism is a multidimensional sector. It is attractive as wide and it is forever because it is not only for a time. . It is also a matter of everyone’s concern and sensitive. Not only the quake but also the tsunami (Hudhud) of last year that caused massive snowfall and glaciers causing death of many mountaineers has affected our tourism sector. And the quake added the pain. Tourism sector also like other sector has been facing trouble due to the current crisis.

More than this Nepal is facing a humanitarian crisis due to the bad trend of strike and Banda. Tourism sector is also being affected due to a bad culture that promotes Banda, strike, burning and struggle for each and every issue.

 

Fuell crisis has been faced by this sector too. We are planning to make 4-5 things at this time. First, we are trying to convince and give message to the tourists all over the world that it is not a bigger crisis in tourism; you should come to see its natural beauty and biological diversity. To mitigate the crisis effect on tourism, we are trying to eradicate the fuel shortage at least to the tourist sector. Another important issue is that we are repairing the trekking routes and the historical and religious sites that were damaged due to quake.

Accomplishing these tasks we are planning to not only to reach to the previous stage but to catch the development trend of previous level.

What are the challenges in tourism and aviation sector of Nepal in coming days?

Tourism is more a sector of possibility rather than a challenges and problems. We have to prove it. If you see from the side of aviation none of the area were devastated by the earthquake. They did not face problem. Most of the hotels remained safe. The tourist sites are also far from danger of earthquake. For these reasons this sector is the area of possibility rather than the problem and challenges. This is also an attractive sector for international investment. It is a nice sector to create employment. I have a plan to convince investors that invest on tourism won’t turn into loss. We are trying to form a tourism friendly rules and strategies. We want to establish a system to provide quick facilities, and attract private sector in tourism.

Tourism has an effect on local level and international level. As it is interconnected to the every sector, we have plan to sign air agreement to many countries and improve capacity of NAC.

We are working hard to promote Nepalese tourism through improving aviation and conservating the natural diversity. .

 

How can we evaluate the present situation when difficulties are left by the quake and added by the instable of Terai in tourism sector?

As you said, tourism sector like other sectors is becoming a bit week, critical, and damaged. One important aspect is that it is only tired but not vanquished. We have to take part in the deep discussion with the investors and tourism promoters regarding the challenges and the way out. We are different than other tourist destination because Buddha was born here and we have vast potentiality of mountaineering tourism. These are the things we can attract tourists. There is no such diversity in other nations. We have forwarded the concept of Buddhist circuit among the Buddhist nations.

In recent years, there has been massive growth in Chinese Tourists in Nepal. What could be reason behind this?

In 2010 only 46,360 Chinese tourists came to visit Nepal which number surprisingly reached to 123,805 in 2014 shows that China is a right destination for Nepalese tourism promotion.   The cause behind their visit is to see Nepalese diversity and they are also coming for leave tourism. They are also a long stay tourists and quality tourists. Most of the Chinese tourists’ destination is Pokhara. They are also attracting in the rafting, Bungee jumping, paragliding etc. too. If we can improve our production according their necessity, China could be the largest market of Nepalese tourism.

 

How much did increased airline connectivity help in increasing Chinese tourists in Nepal?

It can be viewed in two ways. You have raised a very important topic. One thing is that how to make the roadway possible with China.

I have a small proof that more than 1300 years earlier Ansuverma’s daughter Bhrikuti was married to king of Tibet Songtsen Gampo and they built a large Buddha temple. Many people every year visit this place to see this historic and religious place. Nepal should think to bring those tourists to Nepal because they are interested to visit Nepal.

It is necessary to open some border points to bring them here. Secondly we should also establish air connectivity. The possible places are Lhasa, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong in some ways. If we can bring the tourists who come to Hong Kong it would be very much beneficial.

 

Many Chinese cities are not yet connected with Nepal by airline. Is there room for further flight connectivity between the two countries from the business point of view although latest air service agreement allows operation of 56 flights on a week between two countries?

This year, recently we signed air agreement with 8 countries in Turkey and reviewed some older agreements. We discussed informally with China too. We should see the agreement with China in two ways. The first is how many flights can we send there? We should not forget the capacity of NAC too. We should increase our flights soon before agreement. We have not yet used 56 flights too. But we are trying to make it unlimited and provide service through our own airlines. NAC has studied on it.

 

You said to increase flights and expand the Chinese destinations. When will it be possible?

We are focusing three cities first. First is Beijing because our embassy is there, second is Lhasa. There are multiple efforts done to take tourists from roadways. Nepal government wants to establish embassy in Guangzhou too and work from there too. Nepal Tourism Board and tourism ministry is taking part in many tourist marts in China. During our visits to China, we too express that view.

 

We are focusing Shanghai because it is a touristic city. We should also focus to Kunming city because we can welcome many tourists from there. We cannot reach to the all cities now and if we could focus on those five cities and continue improving, we can welcome 500,000 Chinese tourists each year after 5 years.

 

Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), the national flag carrier has not yet entered into mainland China. Is there any plan from the government to enable the NAC to enter into the Chinese cities?

The first thing is that we have to improve the capacity of NAC. We have very old structure and the aircrafts are too old. The new aircrafts are also unable to work in full scale due to some technical cause. We are unable to complete expected flights due to the technical problems.

I have conduct four meeting on it. We are improving our institutional capacity. We are heading to reach to the logical and appropriate decision regarding the import of two Chinese aircrafts.

More than this we have formed a team to study for importing 4 more aircrafts; two wide bodied and two narrow bodied airbus.

 

Nepal and China signed agreement to purchase some Chinese planes for NAC getting two planes in gift. Obviously, the questions have been raised about performance of Chinese planes which were received in grant. Will the issue deter the plane purchase deal?  

We should see every package differently. In the matter of granted aircrafts from China, before bringing them to the country, Nepalese technical team tested the aircrafts according to the performance indicator and performance list. We are using them now. We should accept that there seemed some technical errors too and that does not mean that we cannot use these planes.

Nepal had requested China to give permission for Nepali helicopters to go Kailash- Mansarovar in Tibet. Many religious tourists from Nepal and India want to go there. Is there any progress?

There are two things on it. The first option is the roadway for the tourists who want to reach to the Kailash-Mansarovar. The roadway is from Surkhet or Nepalgunj to Simikot of Humla district and on foot to Hilsa and using vehicles from Hilsa which is difficult.

The airports in Nepal have many complaints regarding facilities and physical infrastructures. What efforts underway to improve the facilities and respond the complaints?

We are under process to improve the facilities of our Tribhuvan International Airport. We have 18 airports which are not in use. We are studying to improve them in cooperation with private sector and NAC. We are ranking all the airports of the country according to their various indicators. We have just started it.

China has pledged to provide loan to the Nepal government to develop second international airport in Pokhara. Where has the progress reached?

We have a plan to establish an international airport at Nijgadh of Bara district and it is in process. Another is at Pokhara. Partial loan and partial grant from Chinese government is the economic source for Pokhara International Airport. We have finalized the MOU before 15 days and all the process will be concluded in near future. Most probably within one month we will have good news of starting of work there.

Is there potential for Chinese investment in Nepal’s airport infrastructure and other infrastructures as Chinese companies are involved worldwide in major airport infrastructure?

Nepal is a right place for China regarding investment, trade and construction. Nepal should establish a business relation with China. Chinese technologies are essential in Nepal because Nepal is a country with hilly region. We can use Chinese technology for making Tunnel Highway.

The Chinese goodwill also justifies the Chinese investment in Nepal. Regarding trade Nepal should open potential border points with China. In recent time of crisis, there is a possibility of various agreements and the business between these nations will not decreased onwards.

There has been joint venture investment in new Himalaya Airline between Nepali investors and Tibet Airline to operate international flights from Nepal. What is the prospect of Chinese joint venture investment in Nepal’s airline industry?

In fact this is an important agreement for Nepalese private airlines to have international flights. It will open a door for an international investment in airlines development sector and it is a boon for airlines industry. It can be a significant step to build airports and to promote aviation.

How long will the travelers have to face troubles in the TIA regarding the losing luggage etc.?

We are repairing airport in good manner. We hope after the completion of maintenance this problem will be solved.

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