It is holiday season in Nepal – monsoon is nearly over and the Himalayan country will soon be celebrating its national festival of Dasain. This is a good reason for many Nepalis to go on holiday and for many other Asian nationals to visit the Himalayan country.
A new attraction for Nepal tourists: The former king's palace will be open as a museum for visitors shortly
So far this year, more than 60,000 tourists from India have visited the newly created Himalayan Republic. However, Indian tourists are not so much interested in stomping around the countryside like their European fellow travellers, as tourism adviser Sam Voolstra explains:
"You have the very religious pilgrims who come here and visit the temples and you have the other group of Indians who come here to gamble. Most five-star hotels in Kathmandu have big casinos attached and offer special packages for Indian tourists. The Indian government does not allow casinos so a lot of tourism comes from Indians coming to Kathmamdu to gamble."
Recovery after the civil war
After being battered by a civil war for nearly ten years, Nepal has seen a constant rise in the number of tourists since a peace deal was signed between the then government and the Maoist rebels more than two years ago.
Last year the Himalayan country saw more than half a million tourist arrive by air. More than 300,000 of them came from Asian countries, with India, Sri Lanka, Japan and China leading the pack.
Since 2001, when Nepal became the first South Asian country to be given the "approved destination" status by China, the country has seen a surge in tourist numbers from the People’s Republic. Whereas the number of Chinese visitors saw a 60 per cent rise between 2006 and 2007, Nepal has slightly lost its attraction for Indians.
More Chinese, less Indians
"The share of Chinese tourists has become much better over the last three to four years", says Supreet Raj Pradhan, media consultant of the Nepal Tourism Board. "Now it is more than 20,000 in 2007. But especially from India which has the largest share – more than 30% - the number has gone down for various reasons. One of the main reason is that so many Asian destinations have opened and they had rather go to Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Mauritius."
However, despite the attraction of more tourist destinations in Asia, Nepal will always remain a popular country for both trekkers and religious tourists. With Buddha’s birthplace in Lumbini and the cable-car ride to the wish-fulfilling temple of Manakamana it attracts Hindus and Buddhists alike. And no matter what other mountainous countries have to offer, the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest, will always be a magnet for adventurers.