'Nepal should open passport collection centers in different Chinese cities'
Wang Quan is the executive director of the Tourist Association of Shaanxi Province in China. He is also the general manager of Xi´an Everbright International Travel Service based in Xi´an, China. Wang recently led a delegation to Nepal and met with government officials and tourism entrepreneurs. In an interview with Republica´s Purna Basnet in Xi´an, China, he talked about tourism and investment potential of Nepal. Excerpts:
What was the specific purpose of your recent visit to Nepal?
Xi´an Everbright International Travel Service serves over 100,000 tourists from around the world every year. We send over 20,000 Chinese tourists to different countries and bring in around 80,000 foreign tourists to China every year. South Korea is one of the biggest markets for us from where around 40,000 tourists came to China last year. Although Nepal holds great tourism potential, not many are visiting the country. In my opinion, this is because of visa problem. At the same time, Chinese travel agencies are also not showing keen interest in promoting Nepal as a tourist destination because of lack of information. Now we would like to promote Nepal by sending as many tourists as possible. So, I visited Nepal for the first time in my two-decade-long career as a tourism entrepreneur.
What are major attractions for Chinese tourists in Nepal?
I was very much impressed by Nepal´s natural beauty and climate. I think friendly nature of Nepalis will also play a key role in attracting Chinese tourists. I believe many Chinese Buddhists from Xi´an would want to visit Lumbini -- the birthplace of Buddha, once in their lifetime. This is because people of Xi´an, China´s main Buddhist center, have deep respect for Buddhism. Other attractions include snow-clad mountains, diverse ethnic groups and blend of different cultures. Besides, Nepal´s handicraft products are very famous in China. Nepal can earn lots of foreign currency if it can develop this sector.
What are major challenges that Nepal needs to overcome to promote tourism?
Nepal government should provide adequate security to travelers. Good arrangement of transport facilities, hotels and restaurants are a must to give boost to tourism industry. Chinese tourists expect good service and they don´t mind paying the cost for those privileges. In this regard, Nepal must focus on improving its transport infrastructure and build hotels and restaurants of better quality. Besides, Nepal also lacks sufficient Chinese-speaking tour guides and tourist information centers with Chinese-speaking personnel.
What should Nepal do to promote tourism?
If Nepal wants to develop Lumbini as an international tourist destination, it has to first launch publicity campaigns in countries where Buddhism is practiced. Secondly, Nepal has to develop its transport infrastructure and build more hotels and restaurants. Thirdly, Nepal needs to protect its natural beauty. In addition, the government should allow selected travel and tour companies that are capable to work.
How is your company promoting Nepal in China?
Our plan is to promote Nepal as much as we can in China. That is why we launched a CD on Nepal in late 2012. The CD provides an insight into Nepali culture and natural beauty to travelers interested in visiting Nepal. To promote Nepal, we are also planning to send more Chinese TV journalists to Nepal. In my opinion, tourism is a conduit through which Chinese investment can flow into Nepal, as people who visit the country will get firsthand knowledge of the government´s policy and priorities. Currently, Chinese people are looking for foreign investment opportunities and if they think Nepal has the potential to give good returns, they would be happy in making investment. In this regard, we are ready to work with the Nepal government to bring in more Chinese tourists and investment.
What challenges are you facing while promoting Nepal in China?
It is very difficult for Chinese tourists to visit Nepal. Currently, direct flights to Nepal are available from only three locations in mainland China - Guangzhou, Kunming and Lhasa. Another problem is visa. China is a big country but Nepali visas are issued from only three cities - Beijing, Shanghai and Lhasa. Although Nepal provides on-arrival visa facility for Chinese tourists, the Chinese government doesn´t allow its citizens to travel without visa to any country. So if Nepal can establish passport collection centers in different Chinese cities, including Xi´an, more Chinese tourists would be interested in traveling to Nepal. I also urge the concerned bodies to start direct flight between Kathmandu and Xi´an.