Amid uncertainty over government formation and fate of the peace process after departure of the UN special mission, Nepal on Friday launched Nepal Tourism Year 2011.
The special drive over the next 12 months aims to welcome one million visitors and the Himalayan nation is banking heavily on its two big neighbours—India and China—to reach that target.
President Ram Baran Yadav officially declared NTY 2011 open at a three-hour-long cultural extravaganza in the capital attended by thousands including dignitaries from UN and other countries.
Indian tourists comprise nearly 25% of the total foreign visitors to Nepal. In 2010 of the around 450,000 tourists, over 100,000 were from India.
But the biggest increase was of Chinese tourists, which recorded a jump of nearly 37% in 2010 to cross the 25,000 mark. Tourists from USA, UK and France comprised the other major chunk of visitors.
“We will be holding programmes in India and China to attract more tourists,” Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal said in his address.
The NTY 2011 implementation committee is hoping to attract 265,000 tourists from India and 100,000 from China during the year.
Tourism is one of the mainstays of Nepal’s economy and despite the slump in the past decade due to the civil war record tourist arrival in 2010 is being viewed as a positive sign.
With the motto of ‘Together for Tourism, Tourism for Prosperity and Prosperity for Stability’, NTY 2011 hopes to obliterate setbacks of past years.
But adverse travel advisories of some foreign nations due to uncertain political and security situation in Nepal could pour cold waters on the plan to double the number of tourists in a year.
US warns of potential risks of travelling to Nepal, UK wants citizens to remain vigilant, Australia and New Zealand advises caution and Canada wants those interested to visit to evaluate the safety and security implications.
Nepal is witnessing political uncertainty due to differences among parties over government formation. With the UN mission departing on Saturday, there is also possibility of the peace process falling apart.