KATHMANDU, July 10: With the increasing popularity of travel culture among Nepalis, the numbers of them going abroad on vacation rose by 10 percent and touched 32,063 in 2011, according to the latest outbound travel data that the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) is making public shortly.
According to the report, the number of Nepali outbound tourists was 21,899 in 2008. But this has increased significantly over the last three years, thanks to a growing travel culture among high-income groups.
"The launch of affordable tour packages by tour operators also helped trigger the rise in outbound travel," adds the report.
Bishwash Bajracharya at NextYatra Travel said despite the rise in tour package costs due to increase in the dollar rate and airfares, sales of tour packages have not been affected much. “We observed growth of around 20 percent compared to the same period last year,” he said.
Tour operators said the most popular among destinations was Bangkok because of the affordable price. The operators said Nepalis have also started traveling to European destinations in the last two years. The other popular destinations include Singapore, Malaysia, China, Dubai and Egypt. In the early stages, outbound travel was limited to India.
The statistics show that there has also been a rise in the number of Nepalis travelling for purposes of health and for seminars and conferences. “People traveling for purposes other than academic study and employment can be categorized as tourists,” said chief statistician at MoCTCA Rabi Prasad Kayastha, adding that travel in most of the categories has been increasing since the last four years. It was only in 2008 that the government started keeping records of Nepalis flying abroad.
According to the data for 2011, 13,384 people went abroad for seminars, 5,827 for religious purposes and 9,654 for health purposes.
Sushil Baniya, manager at Ace Travels, said that although the price of travel packages has gone up because of the high dollar there was an increase in the number of travel enquires.
The month of September-October is considered peak season for outbound tourism because of the Dashain and Tihar festivals. “We are working on packages for this period and the enquiries are very encouraging,” he added.
Baniya said that as tour operators were assisting travelers with visas, the number of travelers flying to Europe was also on the rise. “We guide them in the visa procedures, making travel hassle-free,” he added.
According to the operators, travelers were spending a week abroad on average. People traveling to places like Bangkok and Dubai spend 4-5 days on average and those traveling to Europe or under combined Bangkok-Malaysia-Singapore packages are spending 12-14 days on average.
Tour operators are hopeful that if the rupee gets stronger and airfares cheaper, the volume of outbound travel would increase further. “At present a majority of travelers are visiting a limited number of destinations as it is very hard for them to manage the costs, with airfares going up significantly in recent months,” Bajracharya said.