Cambodia and Nepal mull two-way tourism

PHNOM PENH, 19 September 2017: Cambodia and Nepal’s travel agency associations signed a Memorandum of Understanding, last week, to develop two-way tourism between the two countries.

Travel between the two countries is in its infancy with less than 2,500 Nepalese visiting Cambodia last year and even fewer Cambodians travelling to the Himalayan nation.

The MoU was signed by the presidents of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents (CATA) and Nepal Travel Agents Association (NTAA) in Phnom Penh, 12 September.

CATA president  Chhay Sivlin said there was potential to grow two-way tourism.

“Nepal is one of the choices among Cambodian people when they travel to religious sites. Lumbini in Nepal is sacred because it was the birthplace of the Lord Buddha,” he said.

Buddhist pilgrimages to holy sites in India are already sold by Cambodian travel agents, but now the travel agency association see potential to add Nepal to itineraries with a visit to Lumbini, which stands just a few km from the border with India.

Claiming  2,505 Nepali tourists visited Cambodia last year, Sivlin expressed hope that the number would increase in the near future.

Director of Nepal’s National Tourism Board Bimal Kandel was also optimistic saying the plan would promote Nepal to Cambodians interested in heritage, religious shrines and the spectacular mountains.

He estimated that about 100,000 Nepalese travelled to Southeast Asia in 2016. Thailand was a popular gateway due to nonstop flights between Bangkok and Kathmandu.

There are no direct air links between Cambodia and Nepal, which means travel agents would have to package holidays through the Bangkok gateway.

Aakarshan Travel and Tours managing director, Nilesh Adhikari, said long-term plans were emerging to offer tours to Nepal.

Signing of the MoU followed on from a tourism promotional event held in Phnom Penh, last June, organised by the Embassy of Nepal.

Chhay Sivlin called the MoU signing a “milestone that would mark stronger cooperation between Cambodia and Nepal in the tourism industry.”

Cambodia attracted 5 million tourists in 2016, up 5%. This year, authorities are targeting 5.5 million.  During the first quarter of 2017, visits reached 1.5 million, up 11.9% year to date.

Just days before the signing of the MoU in Phnom Penh, a delegation of 21 travel companies under the Nepal Society of Travel and Tour operators met with their counterparts in Ho Chi Minh Cith, Vietnam.

Led by president Anil Lama the group was exploring cooperation options to link Nepal and Vietnam’s tourism.