Kathmandu, March 28: Battered by last year's killer quakes and subsequent crippling border stir, Nepal's tourism industry is banking heavily on Indian tourists for sustained growth in its main forex earner.
According to officials from travel and tourism sector here, the quake in April, 2015 and border agitation, which led to "economic blockade" of the landlocked country, dampened sentiments on the tourism front and conveyed message to the world that Nepal is not safe for holiday-makers.
However, things have limped back to normalcy and the sector hopes to see good days ahead in Nepal, a country famous for snowcapped mountains and breathtaking natural beauty. Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) is making all out effort to convince the world that all is well in the Himalayan nation and is planning to hold road shows in India next month.
Tourism is the largest industry in Nepal, and the largest source of foreign exchange and revenue. Possessing eight of the 10 highest mountains in the world, Nepal is a hot-spot destination for mountaineers, rock climbers and people seeking adventure.
"The quake damaged some heritage sites and did immense harm to Nepal's image. But the fact is that heritage sites in only 10 of the 75 districts in Nepal were affected," said Deepak Raj Joshi, Chief Executive Officer of NTB. "Now, we are convincing the world that things are back to normal in the country and its a safe destination for vacationers," Joshi said.
Ujjwala Dali, Officiating Director (Tourism Marketing & Promotion) at NTB, said: "India and Nepal share close social and political ties. They share 'roti-beti ka rishta' (ties of food and family). But we are missing Indian tourists for a year."
"There was a whopping 80-90 per cent drop in tourist arrivals after the earthquake. After that political unrest and blockade were unpleasant developments," said Santosh Karki, General Manager of KGH Group of Hotels, a leading player in Nepal's hospitality sector.
"However, things improved after the blockade was lifted. We started receiving many enquiries (for hotel bookings)," said Karki, whose Group has two properties - Waterfront Resort and Himalayan Front - in Pokhara, a scenic tourist town about 200 kms from Kathmandu.
According to industry officials, Nepal receives around 8 lakh tourists every year. About 20-25 per cent of them are from India and 10 per cent from China. The arrivals fell to just 3.5 lakh after the temblor and NTB officials said they expect to reach the 8 lakh-mark by next year.
"China is targeting to send one million tourists by 2020. But we want India to send more than one million tourists in the next four years. Tourism will bring India and Nepal closer," Dali said.