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Rabindra Adhikari (L), Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation shakes hand with Luo Shugang, Minister of Culture and Tourism of China during the bilateral meeting at Ministry Office, Singhadurbar in Kathmandu on Tuesday, November 13, 2018. Photo: Dipesh Shrestha/Nagarik/Republica

China positive about allowing NAC to fly to its cities

China has assured Nepal that it would allow the Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) to operate commercial flights to its cities.

Visiting Chinese Minister for Culture and Tourism Luo Shugang made such assurances during a meeting between travel delegations of the two countries.

n the meeting, Minister for Culture, Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Rabindra Adhikari requested the visiting dignitary for needful initiatives for allowing NAC to operate flights to Guangzhou and Shanghai among other Chinese cities.

“Chinese Minister Luo responded positively to Minister Adhikari’s request and assured to take needful steps,” Ghanashyam Upadhyaya, the spokesperson for the tourism ministry, said.

The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has been holding discussion with Chinese authorities regarding NAC’s plan to operate commercial flights to different Chinese cities. As China is the second largest tourist generating market for Nepal, increasing air connectivity with the northern neighbor has always been a priority for the government. Nepal has intensified initiatives for the same after the national flag carrier inducted two Airbus A330-200 jets to its fleet.

NAC plans to operate these wide-body aircraft to long-haul destinations including some Chinese cities. But it has still to get green signal from the Chinese authorities.

“The national carrier has a huge role to play for the tourism sector. If NAC gets permission to fly to Chinese cities, tourist arrivals from China are likely to grow significantly,” added Upadhyaya.

As many as four Chinese airlines are already flying to Nepal, while the NAC awaits permission to fly to China. Air China connects Kathmandu with Chengdu via Lhasa, while China Southern operates scheduled flights to Kathmandu from Guangzhou. Similarly, Sichuan Airlines flies between Chengdu and Kathmandu via Lhasa and China Eastern flies to Kathmandu from Kunming.

NAC used to fly to Osaka via Shanghai until 2008. It had withdrawn the flight citing shortage of aircraft.

The number of Chinese tourists visiting Nepal is increasing with every passing year. Nepal has welcomed 109,557 Chinese tourists via air till September. The growth has been attributed to increasing promotional campaigns in Chinese cities, designation of Rasuwagadhi entry point as international border crossing, increasing number of Chinese restaurants and other service providers, and easy availability of Chinese speaking guides, among others. Arrivals from China are expected to increase further as Nepal is celebrating Visit Nepal Year in 2020.

Both sides have also agreed to organize tourism promotional events in each other’s countries to further increase the flow of tourists, according to Upadhyaya.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister Adhikari appreciated the Chinese assistance for rebuilding cultural and historical heritages damaged by the 2015 earthquakes. “Minister Adhikari thanked China for the assistance and expressed hope that such assistance will continue in the coming days as well,” said Upadhyaya.

The Chinese minister also expressed commitment to commence reconstruction of the nine-storied Nuwakot Palace in Nuwakot district at the earliest.

Minister Luo, who is on a four-day visit of Nepal, is also attending the ‘8th China Festival in Nepal’ at the Army Officer’s Club in Kathmandu. The Chinese delegation is also scheduled to meet Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

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