The Chinese government has listed Nepal among the countries where its citizens can travel freely without any restrictions. According to the Chinese embassy in Nepal, from March 15, 2023 (Chaitra 1), Chinese citizens can buy packages to travel to Nepal from various agencies. This is expected to bring more business to Nepal’s tourism industry. According to tourism entrepreneur Rajendra Sapkota, this news has generated a lot of enthusiasm among Chinese tourists and has put Nepal on the list of popular destinations for them. “Their condition due to COVID-19 was very pitiable,” he said. “Now we can expect significant improvement all at once.” As to entrepreneurs, Nepal is a popular destination among Chinese citizens, and this move will make Nepal a neighboring country of China without any transit.

“They come in groups and bring excitement to the tourism industry,” says Sapkota. His statement refers to the positive impact of Chinese tourists on various aspects of tourism, from trekking guides to hotels and transportation. According to Vinod Sapkota, the Secretary of the Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), if a Chinese group comes, there is a possibility that a hotel will be fully booked, which will bring good business to the tourism market.

“Before the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nepal in 2019, the country had seen the highest number of tourists in its history. In that year, 1,197,191 tourists visited Nepal. The majority of these tourists were Chinese, surpassing Indian tourists for the first time.

According to the Nepal Tourism Board, in 2019, there were 169,543 Chinese tourists and 254,150 Indian tourists. However, following the outbreak of COVID-19, China imposed travel restrictions on its citizens, preventing them from traveling abroad. As of 2023, China has started to loosen its policies, and the number of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal has increased. In February 2023, 2,266 Chinese tourists visited Nepal, while in the previous month (January), 1,436 Chinese tourists had visited.”

The attraction of Pokhara for Chinese Tourists

In Nepal, tourism and hotel businesses consider Chinese tourists as a valuable asset for the attraction of Pokhara.

According to Yuvaraj Shrestha, a member of the executive committee of the Hotel Association Nepal (HAN), there is a large group of Chinese citizens in Pokhara at the time of the occurrence of the Afson (Apple) festival in Nepal. This is an excellent opportunity to do business in Afghanistan. “European and Indian tourists have a particular season to visit Nepal,” he says, “but Chinese citizens do not have such a season to find Pokhara.”

Chinese tourists are considered the biggest spenders in the world. According to the Secretary-General of the Trekking Agents Association of Nepal, Chinese tourists enjoy spending in Nepal, especially in the Pokhara region. This is a great opportunity for Nepali domestic products to be sold as well. Indian tourists are also showing increasing interest in Nepali food and products, but the Chinese citizens are the ones who enjoy spending the most. According to a member of the Hotel Association of Nepal, Chinese tourists are considered attractive to hotels as they are willing to spend more money. “Many tourists who come to Nepal from China are high and middle-income earners,” he says. “Chinese tourists are considered as cost-effective for hotels as well.”

Chinese citizens enjoy participating in various activities but are not as interested in long treks like tourists from Europe and America in Nepal, according to entrepreneurs. They prefer to stay in groups and engage in various activities within a specific area.

According to tourism entrepreneur Sagar Pandey, Chinese citizens visiting Pokhara enjoy paragliding, zip-lining, hot air ballooning, bungee jumping, boating and more in the region, but they are not as interested in long treks. Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Chitwan are the most popular destinations for Chinese citizens in Nepal. They are particularly drawn to exploring the cultural and heritage sites in Kathmandu. The Secretary of the Nepal Tourism Board, Sapkota, believes that all areas that connect tourism with culture and heritage can unite to create a vision for Chinese tourists.

China had imposed a ban on air travel in Nepal due to COVID-19. The restriction on air travel continues to be in place. After that, China Southern Airlines operated flights to Nepal. Then, Himalaya Airlines resumed flights. Currently, this company is operating regular flights to Kunming and Beijing. Air China has also been flying on the Chengdu-Kathmandu route. Sichuan Airlines has also made public a schedule to operate four flights a week in Nepal. As most tourists travel through these flights, it is expected to bring excitement to Nepal’s tourism industry.