When Tibet opened up its door for eager tourists in 1984, that verdict relocated Nepal into a demanding transit hub – a Gateway – to the Tibet. Nepal, which was, then, 20 years older in terms of tourism development, acknowledged potential opportunities to keep hotels of Kathmandu busy in business during monsoon season. Ever since the “Roof of the World” commenced welcoming tourists, many Tibet operators in Nepal were offering wide range of designed tour packages depending upon individual taste, resources, and schedule with guaranteed departure
However, during the decade long insurgency in Nepal, many Tibet operators in Nepal found themselves in ‘out of business’. Tourists would rather take direct flight from their hometown to Beijing or Chengdu, even though the distance between Chengdu to Lhasa is 44 hours ride from train, against merely 5 hours ride from Kathmandu to Khasa. In 2006 when insurgency came to an end, tourism industry in Nepal started flourishing once again. Within three years i.e. in 2009, Nepal saw 33 percentage increments in tourists’ arrival.
Only few years ago, there were no more than twice-a-week flights that connect Kathmandu to Lhasa. Coming to this present scenario, 2015, now there are already three different Chinese Airlines that connect Nepal to different Chinese cities whereas Air China operates daily flight from Kathmandu to Chengdu via Lhasa. Domestic Airlines, Himalayan Airlines collaborating with Tibetan Airlines are on the pipeline to operate flights to connect Kathmandu and Lhasa. Nevertheless, demand to visit Tibetan capital is at the apex and to please this emerging demand, another Chinese Airlines, Sichuan Airlines, is on the queue to operate from 1st of April connecting Kathmandu to Lhasa. Fact is 100% of all flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa arrive during or before afternoon, and Sichuan Airlines proclaims to live up to this tradition. However, to beat the odds, flight from Kathmandu to Lhasa, which is round about 55 minutes, is slightly expensive is what customers reckon when they tend to compare with other destinations but, yet, it is not a complain so far.
Observing this optimistic wings flying over the sky, we hope that in the near future – if the rates would fluctuate down a bit then the future looks bright and shine to the both sides.
Nepal has always been a Gateway to Tibet; either for Indian pilgrims who wish to visit Mt. Kailash, or monks from all around the world who desire to visit the birthplace of Buddha, Lumbini and then pay their visit to Tibet, or mountain expeditors, or for wanderlust who desires to have good time in life. With the changing time and changing perceptions, Tibet has not only been a lucrative destination during monsoon season, but Tibetan snow and North base camp of Everest –seen – from Tibetan surface are much appreciated and well valued in winter time.
*The author has been involved in the Tourism industry since 1992 organizing Tours and Treks in Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan, and has a wide range of experience in arranging expeditions to many of the Himalayan peaks.
You can reach him through [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @shiva_nepal