Foreign arrivals to Nepal’s international airport rose in 2012, figures showed on Wednesday, despite political uncertainty in the Himalayan nation but growth in the sector slowed down.
Arrivals by air increased nearly 10 percent year-on-year to 598,204, the Nepal Tourist Board said, citing data released by Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport.
But while arrivals from many countries saw significant growth, Chinese and Indian tourists, by far Nepal’s largest markets, fell by 3.1 percent and 10.4 percent respectively from December 2011 to the same month last year.
There was better news from Nepal’s largest European markets, the United Kingdom and Germany, which grew by 11.9 and 23.7 percent respectively, while there were also more arrivals from Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
However the overall growth of 9.76 percent marked a three-year low, with the numbers of foreign airline passengers rising 22.1 percent and 18.2 percent in the previous two years.
Once a must-see destination on the famed “hippy trail”, Nepal’s tourism industry was dealt a severe blow during the decade-long Maoist insurgency that ended in 2006.
Industry insiders put last year’s hiccup down to Nepal’s on-going political instability — parliament was dissolved in May and fresh elections called for November last year were postponed till April or May — and a lack of co-ordination in the industry.
Many of Nepal’s Indian visitors cross the border by foot or by road, but full figures adding overland visitors to airport arrivals will not be available for another month, the tourist board said.