Sangam Prasain, The Kathmandu Post, 29 July 2018
More than 1.36 million Indian tourists visited Nepal in 2017, according to a latest study of the Tourism Ministry. The overland Indian visitors’ survey 2017 showed that 1.20 million Indian tourists travelled Nepal through the surface route while 160,132 travelled via air route.
If the Indian overland tourists are taken into account, the country has already hosted 2.14 million tourists, exceeding the 2 million mark that Nepal has targeted to host in the third version of Visit Nepal Year 2020.
The survey was conducted at six entry points—Kakarvitta, Jaleshwor, Birgunj, Bhairahawa, Nepalgunj and Mahendranagar—along Nepal-India border. The survey does not include those Indian visitors who have stayed for less than 24 hours and those who entered Nepal on foot.
The study showed that Belihiya in Bhairahawa was the busiest entry point. Out of the total Indian arrivals through surface route, 441,352 entered through Belihiya. The highest number of Indian travellers—604,705—travelled Nepal through car, van and jeep being the most popular mode of transportation. Similarly, 515,456 travelled through bus and minibus and 83,200 through motorcycle. The survey has been conducted among 1,200 respondents at six entry points in the months of March through May 2018.
The survey said that the average length of stay of Indian tourists travelling Nepal through overland was 5.8 days. Despite the largest arrivals from the southern neighbour, the average expenditure of Indian visitors was as much as Rs11,310 during their stay.
“The spending of Indian visitors in Nepal is very low and it indicates that Nepal needs to diversify its tourism products to make them stay longer and spend more,” said tourism ministry officials.
Of the total visitors, more than half stayed at ordinary hotels and only 1.3 percent stayed in 5 star hotels, the survey said, adding that 83 percent of visitors managed their tours themselves and 17 percent purchased a packaged tour.
The main purpose of visit was holiday and pleasure followed by pilgrimage. The survey said that friends and relatives were the primary source of information to the Indian visitors.
“It is highly recommended that Nepal should roll out promotional programmes targeting north Indian cities as majority of respondents during the survey had received information about Nepal from their friends and relatives,” the survey said.
Majority of visitors were service holders and students and they were within the ages of 18-34. There were 40 percent female and 60 percent male visitors. “Since more Indian visitors have propensity of travelling to Nepal due to burgeoning middle class, it is essential to find the real size, spending pattern and travel behaviors of Indian outbound so that Nepal can cater to the needs of this emerging segment more effectively,” the survey has recommended.
The survey said that besides the six entry points covered by the study, many visitors enter Nepal through other points such as Pashupatinagar, Ilam; Biratnagar; Vittamod, Janakpur; Dhangadhi, Krishnanagar, Kapilvastu; Gulariya, Bardia and Koilabas, Dang-which are not included in the survey.
The relation between Nepal and India allows citizens of both countries to commute across the border freely. The survey has suggested that a system be introduced across all entry points to record the number of people crossing the border without curtailing the privileges enjoyed by the people of both countries.