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Visitation likely to drop after destruction

Updated: 2015-04-27 07:48
By Xu Jingxi (China Daily)

The number of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal is likely to fall sharply following the earthquake, according to travel industry sources.

The country has become an increasingly popular destination, particularly for backpackers, hikers and mountaineers.

China is poised to overtake India as the top source of tourists for the Himalayan nation, the birthplace of Buddhism. The number of visitors has increased greatly thanks to improved airline connections and China's changing policy toward Nepal, according to Kathmandu Post.

Data from Nepal's tourism ministry show that the country received 123,805 Chinese visitors in 2014, up 10 percent year-on-year, while in the same period, the number of Indian visitors dipped by 25 percent.

Up In The Wind, a Chinese movie that featured Nepal and took 120 million yuan ($19 million) at the box office in 2013, generated additional interest. In the movie, several frustrated Chinese urban youngsters go to "happiest country in the world" to recover their inner peace.

The earthquake happened during one of Nepal's peak tourism seasons, which run from March to May and October to November.

"There will be a sharp decrease in the number of Chinese visitors to Nepal," said Ge Lei, marketing director of the China Youth Travel Service.

"Nepal is more attractive to backpackers than to tourist groups. People go there for outdoor sports and to enjoy the views of snowy mountains and waterfalls. It is relatively difficult for backpackers to access rescue services or help themselves in an emergency."

Ge said his travel agency has suspended group visits to Nepal and will refund its customers.

Haitao Travel and the online travel agency Ctrip have also advised customers to cancel their travel plans in Nepal and will provide refunds.

"Nepal is a mountainous, less-developed country and the earthquake is devastating to it. It may suffer aftershocks for several months, and it takes time to restore infrastructure," Ge added. "The negative influence on Nepal's tourism industry may last a year or more."

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has advised citizens to avoid Nepal in the near future because of aftershocks, transportation difficulties and shortages of materials.

"Nepal is obviously not suitable for a visit now after such a catastrophe," Ge added. "We in the tourism industry are deeply grieved by the climbing death toll and the damage to the country's 1,000-year-old cultural heritage."

Independent travel is becoming increasingly popular among Chinese outbound tourists, according to Zhang Lingyun, deputy head of the Tourism Institute at Beijing Union University. Because of this, insurance companies should improve their travel accident insurance schemes, and people should pay more attention to the cover they obtain, Zhang said.

"Most of the travel accident insurance policies for Chinese outbound tourists cover only compensation for injuries caused by accidents, not rescue costs," Zhang said.

"Chinese tourists are known for their high consumption overseas. People should be aware that it's important to invest in buying insurance."

Travel agencies have launched emergency plans to ensure the safety of Chinese tourists in Nepal. The tourists include visitors from Beijing, Shanghai, Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces.

Haitao Travel has confirmed the safety of 100 members of three tourist groups it was hosting in Nepal, and flew one of the groups to Chengdu, Sichuan province, on Sunday, according to Sun Lichan, the agency's marketing director.

"The frequent aftershocks threaten the stranded tourists' safety and we are trying our best to fly them back to China," Sun said.

Zhao Xinying contributed to this story.



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