Editorial: Chinese Tourists in Nepal

For better or for worse?

by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt FRGS FRAS

Dear readers,

Last week, I had the honour of participating as a panelist at the 1st Asian Tourism Resilience Summit in Kathmandu, Nepal. Almost four years after the last big earthquake struck, there are still some remnants of destruction, both in the form of damaged houses and temples as well as in the form of a growing number of Nepalese who decided to stay in the capital rather than to go back to rebuild their homes in remote valleys. And if the region needed another reminder that sudden crises that heavily impact tourism arrivals can happen everywhere, the unfortunate Easter bombings of Christian churches in Sri Lanka serve as a terrible reminder.

The Summit provided information and insights on how to prepare and how to react to such natural or man-made catastrophes, with advice from high-ranking personalities like Dr. Taleb Rifai, former Secretary General of UNWTO and Chairman of the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council (GTTRC), and H.E. Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism of Jamaica and founder of the Global Tourism Resilience/Crisis Management Centre, which will be opened in Jamaica in October 2019. Many examples from around the world were added by experts from many countries including Dr. Mario Hardy (CEO PATA) and Tom Jenkins (CEO ETOA), as well as many Nepalese colleagues.

I had the opportunity to speak about the Chinese source market with a special focus on Nepal. In the first four months of 2019, more than 65,000 Chinese visited Nepal, the same as for the whole year of 2015, and more than any other source market, including India. However, the offer of mostly cheap round-trip tours at low prices attracts the wrong kind of Chinese tour operators and subsequently, the wrong kind of Chinese visitors, lowering the quality of the authentic experience, resulting in the pushing out of traditional markets and environmental destruction without being profitable or satisfactory to the Chinese customers in the process – ultimately killing the brand.

This process has unfortunately taken place in many other destinations, it can only be hoped for the hospitable and gentle inhabitants of Nepal that they can avoid falling into that trap. Instead, the country and its tourism industry has the potential to succeed by climbing up the six steps up the ladder to success in the Chinese market: From higher arrival numbers to higher number of overnights to higher level of spending per visitor per trip to higher margins to higher level of satisfied Chinese visitors, recommending the destination to their peers to finally making sure that local are not alienated by the new large number of visitors.

Currently Chinese investors are buying up many hotels and shops in the former hippie quarter of Thamel and the streets of Kathmandu are seeing for the first time massive traffic jams. Hopefully the prediction of my guide in Kathmandu does not come true. When asked how he thinks Kathmandu will look like in ten years, his short answer was: “Like Delhi.”

Best wishes for the week,

Prof. Dr. Arlt and the COTRI WEEKLY Team