Nepal hopes to woo Chinese travellers with Kathmandu-Beijing flight

KATHMANDU: With the launch of the first direct flight from Kathmandu to Beijing, Nepal hopes to woo more Chinese travellers to the Himalayan nation, a senior Nepalese minister has said.

Himalaya Airlines, a Nepal-China joint venture aviation company, began its maiden direct flight from Kathmandu to Beijing October 27. The first capital-to-capital flight, under the joint initiative that aims to enhance connectivity between the two Himalayan neighbours took, off from the Tribhuvan International Airport October 27, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported. A special program was held on the occasion that was attended by Nepal’s Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai and Chinese Ambassador to Nepal, Hou Yanqi, among others.

“Direct flight between Beijing and Kathmandu has added a new avenue in Sino-Nepal relations. We hope more Chinese tourists would visit Nepal,” Bhattarai said. Stating that the new connectivity has brought the people of the two countries together, Bhattarai said he is expecting half a million Chinese tourists to visit Nepal during Visit Nepal Year 2020.

Hou said that the latest development has taken the aviation cooperation between the two countries to a new height.

Stating that China is the second largest tourism source market for Nepal, she said that Nepal has been the most preferred destination in South Asia for the Chinese tourists. Tourism is one of the major contributors to Nepal’s economy. In 2018, Nepal received 1,173,072 international tourists excluding overland travellers. The share of FDI in tourism was 11.47 per cent at $23,855.50 million.

According to Himalaya Airlines, the new route is expected to ship over 40,000 Chinese passengers a year to Nepal for tourism and business cooperation. “We will be operating two flights a week on Tuesdays and Fridays till November 15. Thereafter, we will also fly to Beijing on Sundays,” Ujjwala Dali, head of brand and service improvement department of the airline, told My Republica.

Dali said the Airbus A320 aircraft will take six hours to reach Beijing and the company will induct Airbus A319 aircraft in its fleet in November. She also said in future several other Chinese cities would be connected with Kathmandu. “Along with Beijing, we are preparing to fly to other Chinese destinations like Guiyang, Changsha and Nanchang from November,” Dali was quoted as saying in the paper.

The new air connectivity between the two nations comes following the recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Kathmandu, the first Chinese top leader to visit Nepal in 23 years. During the two-day visit, President Xi announced a support of 3.5 billion RMB equivalent to Nepalese Rs 56 billion to Nepal over the next two years to help the country’s development programs. The two countries also decided to elevate their bilateral ties to strategic partnership of cooperation and agreed to respect each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. PTI