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Robust growth in tourist arrivals
Visitor arrivals by air in the month of March increased by 34.6 percent to 44,431 compared to the same month last year.

According to figures released by the Immigration Office, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), arrivals from South Asian region, except for the arrivals from Sri Lanka have gained overall positive growth of 35.3 percent.

India and China, a prominent market for Nepal displayed remarkable growth of 35.5 percent and 114 percent respectively compared to the arrivals statistics recorded in the same period last year.

Nepal Tourism Year 2011 has set the target at 265,000 tourists from the southern neighbour and 100,000 tourists from China. With the increased numbers, travel trade entrepreneurs are optimistic that the envisaged target will not be impossible.

In the other South Asian market segment, Bangladeshi tourists increased by 53.8 percent and Pakistan by 3.2 percent.

Arrivals from India have increased since the very beginning of 2010. A robust growth of 21 percent has been observed in the arrivals from the South Asian region during the first three months of 2010 as compared to the same period last year.

Similarly, other Asian countries maintained the upward trend of previous months with Japan (6.8 percent), Malaysia (38.4 percent), and South Korea (68.1 percent). However, arrivals from Thailand and Singapore witnessed negative growths of 45.9 percent and 5.8 percent respectively. On aggregate, the other Asian segment has registered a growth of 32.9 percent.

Visitor arrivals in the first three months, as compared to the same period last year, have grown by 38.6 percent in aggregate.

An overall growth of 42 percent has been observed from the European markets with arrivals from major generating markets such as UK, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands up by 44.9 percent, 5.4 percent, 40.8 percent, 44 percent and 128.2 percent respectively.

Arrivals from the European markets in the first three months have grown by 34.1 percent as compared to the same period last year.

Arrivals from the United States of America increased by 6.5 percent, while, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have also maintained positive trend with 27.2 percent, 27.4 percent and 69 percent of growths respectively.

In the first three month of the current year, a robust 29.8 percent of cumulative growth has been observed in comparison to the same period last year.

A total of 39,221 foreigners departed from TIA in March. The number of Nepalese arrivals stood at 51,243 while 68,475 Nepalese departed from TIA in March 2010.

NTY-2011 officially launched in Pokhara

Nepal Tourism Year 2011 (NTY-2011) was officially launched in Pokhara on Sunday.

On the occasion, minister of Tourism and Civil Aviation Sarat Singh Bhandari said that the economic sector of Nepal is gloomed due to several bandhs, strikes and protests in the country.

He also urged the political parties to end these kinds of protests that badly hamper the economy of the country and also reminded the parties for their commitment towards the NTY-2011 for its success.

He also informed that the number of airlines will reach 33 by 2011.

NTY-2011 is also going to be launched in Bhairawa, Nepalgunj, and Biratnagar on April 13, April 21 and April 23 respectively, said the NTY-2011 working committee.

They are also planning to launch NTY-2011 in various districts of Nepal to create awareness among the people.

Earlier, NTY-2011 was officially launched in Kathmandu by Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal on February 26.

Airlines told to merge

The head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has called for more tie-ups in the airline industry as the struggling sector braces for rising oil prices.

Airline "mergers and consolidation is a must," Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s director-general and CEO, told a Tokyo press conference Monday before meeting government and airport executives. "I strongly support consolidation."

His comments follow last week’s merger of British Airways and Spanish flag carrier Iberia, creating Europe’s second-biggest airline by market capitalisation and an estimated 533 million dollars in annual savings.

In the United States, United Airlines and US Airways are reportedly discussing a merger, with both companies having publicly called for further consolidation in the sector.

Both deals show the accelerating pace of airline tie-ups as carriers look to combine resources and know-how in the face of rising costs, and as passenger demand remains soft after a crippling global economic downturn.

Oil prices hit 18-month highs above 87 dollars last week.

Despite an increase in cooperation between carriers, "airlines are still highly dependent on the traffic generated by their local economies and trade lanes," IATA said in a recent report.

This is in contrast to many "companies listed on major stock exchanges that generate their earnings from across the globe. These companies are not restricted by the market and ownership rules that constrain airlines."

IATA said that while the sector’s recovery is led by Asia and emerging markets, mature markets face more sluggish growth. Premium travel, which is where carriers make their profits, remains 17 percent below 2008 peak levels.

In Japan, Bisignani said he would urge Transport Minister Seiji Maehara to boost the competitiveness of Haneda and Narita airports by reducing landing fees for international carriers, currently double those in Singapore.

Currently at Haneda the landing fee is 2,400 yen (26 dollars) per tonne.Narita charges 592,700 yen for a Boeing 777, nearly three times as high as the fee at South Korea’s Incheon airport.

"It would be disappointing at this critical point for Japan to once again be home to the world’s most expensive airports. Setting such high charges is missing an opportunity to regain the competitiveness that Japan has lost."

Haneda and Narita have "a unique opportunity to decrease unit costs" with their plans to improve capacity, he said.

Haneda is slated to build its fourth runway this year while Narita will extend its second runway.

Everest climbers to get free Nepal visas
Foreign mountaineers who have climbed Mount Everest and another peak will get free Nepali visas for two years, part of a scheme to boost tourism in the Himalayan nation, a senior government official said.

More than 4,000 climbers have scaled the 8,850 metre (29,035 feet) Everest summit since it was first climbed by New Zealander Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953. Some 700 of these foreigners are said to be still alive.

"We will waive the visa fees for them to visit Nepal in 2010 and 2011 part of the Nepal Tourism Year plan," Ranjan Aryal, the most senior bureaucrat in the tourism ministry told Reuters this week.

Himalayan Nepal, home to eight of the world's 14 highest mountains, including Mount Everest, has designated 2011 as the year to boost tourism. It plans to receive one million visitors next year, up from nearly half a million now.

Tourism accounts for 4 percent of the gross domestic product but travel officials say political unrest, frequent general strikes and shutdowns of transportation and roads had hit the industry.

Officials said nearly 200 foreigners who have climbed Mount Dhaulagiri, the world's seventh highest at 8,167 metres (26,794 feet), would also get free visa this year and in 2011 as Nepal marks the 50th anniversary this week of the first ascent of Dhaulagiri by a Swiss-Austrian expedition.

Climbers will also get a 50 percent discount in climbing fees for Dhaulagiri for the rest of 2010 and all of next year as part of the celebrations, another official said.

Each foreign climber has to pay $5,000 to the government as royalty for climbing Dhaulagiri. (Editing by Miral Fahmy)

Mt Dhaulagiri grand celebration on cards

Pokhara will see a three-day Golden Jubilee celebration -- on May 12, 13 and 14 -- of the first ascent of Mt Dhaulagiri (8,167-metre) -- the seventh highest peak in the world. Various programmes will also mark the day in Kathmandu and Beni, the foothill of the Mt Dhaulagiri.

Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) has announced a special programme on May 13 -- the day of first human ascent of Mt Dhaulagiri’s -- at the International Mountain Museum in Pokhara.

Dhaulagiri was first climbed on May 13, 1960 by Kurt Diemberger, Peter Diener, Ernst Forrer, Albin Schelbert, Nyima Dorji and Nawang Dorji, members of a Swiss/Austrian expedition team. The expedition leader was Max Eiselin and they used the Northeast Ridge route which had been reconnoitered one year earlier by an Austrian expedition led by Fritz Moravec.
Th list of guests for the historic day includes 78-year old Austrian climber Kurt Diemberger -- the only surviving member of the first expedition team -- and other mountaineers from around the world.

“The successful summiting of Dhaulagiri in 1960 holds great importance for the development of mountain tourism in Nepal, globally,” Ang Tsering Sherpa, president of NMA said adding that the celebration of all the 8,000-metre peak’s first ascents in Nepal bring the mountaineering community together. “They are also important for telling the world that things are changing in the Himalaya,” he added.

“During the celebration we expect to have overwhelming support and presence of famous mountaineers from all around the mountaineering community and this will have a positive impact on our country’s image,” he added.

These celebrations are also an opportunity for Nepal to show deep appreciation and gratitude to the mountaineers and mountain lovers who have done so much to promote Nepal.

Speaking at a press meet here today minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Sarat Singh Bhandari expressed his best wishes for the 50th anniversary. He also thanked the people for their cooperation during recent general strike and asked for the support to national campaign ‘Nepal Tourism Year 2011’ to make it a huge success. The government to celebrate the Dhaulagiri 50th anniversary has also formed a celebration committee in Kathmandu, Pokhara and Beni. The committee will coordinate during the celebration on May 12, 13 and 14 that is scheduled to be organised at Pokhara.

Meanwhile, recalling his summit of Mt Dhaulagiri in 1960, Diemberger said that they collected the money through the postcards they sent to 16,000 people in Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Italy. They collected mountaineering material from several European countries like they got tents from Poland, special high reindeer boots from Italy and much other equipment from Switzerland.

At 8,167 metres, Mt Dhaulagiri was considered world’s highest mountain until mid-1800s. Even today it has the greatest vertical rise from local terrain, shooting skyward for three kilometres. And in 1960, it remained next to last among the world’s 8,000-metre peaks to be conquered.
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