Spending plunges, length of stay hits 12-year high

June 08, 2017

The Kathmandu Post, 7 June 2017 

Average tourist spending in 2016 plunged 22.62 percent to $53 per day, statistics of the Tourism Ministry showed. However, the average length of stay rose to a 12-year high of 13.4 days per tourist last year as global calls to support Nepal following the devastating 2015 earthquake encouraged foreign visitors to spend more time in Nepal.

According to ministry officials, per day tourist spending in 2015 jumped to a seven-year high of $68.5 per day due to the earthquake and subsequent trade embargo.

Officials attributed the rise in spending to prices shooting up during the four-month-long trade embargo in 2015 when transportation, restaurants, hotels, food, and beverages all became dearer.

“Everything, from food prices and transportation costs to restaurant and hotel bills, rose steeply due to a severe fuel shortage,” ministry officials said. “The burden was passed on to tourists, resulting in increased spending.”

Moreover, tourists also stayed longer in Nepal after the earthquake which increased their daily expenditure.

The ministry’s figures show that the length of stay was higher during the months following the earthquake -- 16.20 days in May, 16.46 days in June and 16.05 days in July. The average length of stay in April, the month when the quake struck, was 12 days.

The country earned Rs55.45 billion from the travel sector last year, against Rs49.78 billion in 2015, ministry statistics showed.

The annual foreign exchange earnings from tourism are calculated by adding up the tourist service charge collected at the airport and monies earned by hotels and travel agencies, among other establishments. The calculation is also based on data received from money changers.

Nepal’s tourism industry experienced a dramatic turnaround last year after being hit by the twin disasters of a devastating earthquake and crippling trade embargo in 2015.

Foreign tourist arrivals to Nepal jumped 39.71 percent to 753,002 in 2016, boosted by robust visitor growth from India, China, the US, the UK and Sri Lanka. In 2015, arrivals plunged to a six-year low of 538,970.

According to the Tourism Ministry, the average length of stay of tourists rose to a 12-year high of 13.4 days last year. In 2015, the average length of stay was recorded at 13.1 days.

The ministry said that visitors who arrived during the September-November period stayed longer in Nepal last year as most of them went trekking, the longest tourism activity in Nepal after mountaineering expeditions to Everest. Trekking packages start from 15 days to a month.  

The highest length of stay of 13.51 days was recorded in 2004 while the shortest stay of 7.92 days was seen in 2002.

“After the devastating earthquakes, the country saw increased movement of aid workers, volunteers, and INGO/NGO staff, who normally stay longer, and this could be a major factor behind the rise in the average length of stay,” said Yogendra Sakya, a senior tourism entrepreneur.

“Besides, there was a substantial rise in trekker numbers after the earthquake, and that led to an increase in the length of stay.”