KATHMANDU, June 1: A series of Nepal bandas since the beginning of May have badly affected tourist arrivals, shows a study. Only 9.3 per cent foreign visitors set foot in the country May this year, a steep fall from 47.1 percent recorded for the same month last year.
The country has never seen such a sharp downturn in tourist arrivals since the beginning of Nepal Tourism Year 2011.
In May, marketplaces and transportation services nationwide remained completely shut for 8 days because of agitations launched by different ethnic groups and political parties, while intermittent strikes continued to cripple movements throughout the month.
Against this gloomy backdrop, the only thing to cheer about is the positive growth in tourist arrivals from most of the destinations.
Figures released by the Immigration Office at Tribhuvan International Airport on Friday show that arrival from South Asian region went up by 13.9 percent. The flow of tourists from India, a major market for Nepal, recorded a growth of 16.1 percent, which is not as encouraging as that of the last year. The statistics show 73,840 Indian tourists visited Nepal via air last month which is considered as the peak season for Indian tourists. In the May of 2011, the figure for Indian tourist arrivals was 55,000 with a growth rate of 46.5 percent.
Similarly, visitor arrivals from Sri Lanka propped up by mere six percent to 306, while number of Bangladeshi tourists coming to Nepal went up by 1.1 percent. Arrivals from Pakistan, on the other hand, have declined by 32.5 percent.
Arrivals from China, one of the largest sources of overseas visitors to Nepal, also couldn´t keep up with the pace of last year as growth rate slowed down to 10.2 percent. In the five months leading up to May, a total of 20,126 Chinese tourists have visited Nepal.
Arrivals from other Asian countries, like Japan and Malaysia, also posted positive growth rates of 26.8 percent and 31 percent, respectively. However, arrivals from countries like South Korea, Singapore and Thailand declined in May from the same period last year.
The series of shutdowns and protests have also affected arrivals from Europe with growth rate limited to 8.3 percent. Last month, a total of 7,518 Europeans visited Nepal. The arrivals from Australia and USA went up by 9 percent and 12.3 percent, respectively.
The slowed growth rate has disfigured the cumulative growth rate of 23.1 percent recorded till first four months of 2012 to 20.5 percent in the five-month period to May.