KATHMANDU: The government has prioritized the development of airports and re branding of Nepal’s tourism industry in the budget for the next fiscal year. As the country accelerates its drive to enhance airport capacity and facilities, the government will be investing for the expansion of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) and regional international airports in Bhairahawa and Pokhara, and small airports in rural hill districts.
However, the budget is silent on development of the much-talked about Second International Airport (SIA) in Nijgadh, Bara though it has addressed the airport’s key components—smart city in Nijgadh and Fast-Track road connecting Nijgadh and Kathmandu.
Tourism Ministry officials expressed surprise that the much-needed airport was not in the budget’s priority. This fiscal year, the government had allocated Rs500 million to carry out initial work on the SIA project for tourism re-branding.
Overall, 2015-16 will see an unprecedented investment in airport expansion and development for the tourism re-branding. The government has accorded priority to the development and up gradation of airport infrastructure in a bid to revitalise the tourism industry for the tourism re-branding that has been struggling to attract even a million tourists in a year in its six-decade history.
The government has allocated Rs1.75 billion to continue the TIA expansion plan, while Rs2.50 billion has been set aside to give continuity to the upgradation of Bhairahawa’s Gautam Buddha airport into a regional international airport. The airport is expected to be completed by December 2017.
“The construction of the proposed Pokhara International Airport will be started from the next fiscal year after completing the distribution of land compensation,” said Mahat.
Due to inadequate tourism infrastructure, particularly airport, the country has been facing increased competition from other markets.
The government aims to encourage domestic airlines to provide services from airports outside Kathmandu to reduce air traffic congestion at the TIA. The government has also allocated funds for the upgradation of airports in Rajbiraj, Nepalgunj, Dhangadhi and Biratnagar.
The government will make a capital investment of Rs5.75 billion in the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal for the development of new airports and upgradation of the existing one. However, the investment has decreased from Rs7.08 billion allocated this fiscal year.
The budget has given priority to the reconstruction of historic sites, settlements and places of cultural significance through community involvement. “The government will leave no stone unturned to promote Nepal as an attractive destination in the global tourism map,” said Mahat. The government has allocated Rs1.01 billion for the reconstruction and promotional activities of Nepal’s tourism.
The areas affected by earthquake will be assessed through safety audit to boost visitors’ confidence. The budget has set aside sufficient financial resources for the development of Lumbini and Janakpur—the country’s religious icons. The Greater Lumbini master plan will be executed and initiate works on developing the Buddhist Circuit will be started next fiscal year, Mahat said.
A feasibility study on the Salleri-Chaurikharka-Mt Everest tourism road will be conducted and the government will expedite the development of the Great Himalaya Trail.
The government has given continuation to the scheme of 100 percent tax exemption for those entrepreneurs willing to build resorts near Rara Lake in Mugu district, while a package for the development of Karnai tourism will be devised, according to the budget.
What’s in the budget for uplift Tourism Sector?
- Unprecedented investment in airports
- Re-branding of Nepal’s tourism industry
- Rs1.75 billion allocated for TIA expansion plan
- Rs2.50 billion for the upgradation of Gautam Buddha airport
- Upgradation of airports in Rajbiraj, Nepalgunj, Dhangadhi and Biratnagar
- Rs1.01 billion for tourism promotion
- Earthquake affected tourist areas to be assessed through safety audit
- Buddhist Circuit will be started from next fiscal year
- Feasibility study of Salleri-Chaurikharka-Mt Everest tourism road