China-assisted Pokhara airport to increase tourism potential, economic benefits for Nepal

2019-10-11 13:40:11Global Times Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download
A view of the construction at the Pokhara airport (Photo/Courtesy of China CAMC Engineering Co)

A view of the construction at the Pokhara airport (Photo/Courtesy of China CAMC Engineering Co)

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The Pokhara Regional International Airport is the largest China-assisted project in Nepal and a major undertaking of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative. It is set to bring job opportunities and economic prosperity to local people, and, more importantly, will have an "instant effect" on Pokhara's tourism once it's completed, a project manager told the Global Times on Thursday.

Located in Pokhara Lekhnath Metropolitan City, some 200 kilometers away from Kathmandu, the Pokhara airport is expected to become the country's second international airport. Tribhuwan International Airport in Kathmandu has thus far been the country's only international airport.

The new airport is a prioritized "National Pride Project" of the country.

"About 47 percent of the project has been completed," Yang Zhigang, general manager of the No.1 Engineering Department of the China CAMC Engineering Co, who is responsible for the project, told the Global Times in an interview. "The airport is expected to be fully constructed by 2021, but we are striving to complete it before that time."

The runway of Pokhara International Airport, which can handle medium-category jets such as the Boeing 757 and the Airbus 320, was completed by the end of September, according to the company.

"Pokhara, a scenic lake city in western Nepal, is one of the major destinations for tourists, while many tourists were held back by the poor civil aviation situation of the old airport," Yang said. 

"Thus, once the new airport is completed, with an annual throughput of 1 million passengers per year compared to around 300,000 per year now, the city's tourism sector is set to welcome more tourists - including those from China," said Yang.

The number of Chinese tourists to Nepal has already seen a surge over the past year. According to data provided by the Chinese Embassy in Nepal, in 2018, the number of Chinese tourists there has increased by 46.8 percent on a yearly basis. China has become the fastest growing source of tourists in Nepal.

During China's just-concluded National Day holiday, the number of Chinese tourists to Nepal increased by about 16 percent year-on-year, far higher than the growth rate of other markets, Xu Xiaolei, manager of marketing at China's CYTS Tours Holding Co, told the Global Times.

Data provided to the Global Times by online travel platform showed that searches for Nepal on its website increased by over 13 percent in the first half of 2019.

To boost that drive further, Nepalese Himalayan Airlines announced that it will operate a direct flight from Kathmandu to Beijing from October 27.

"Apart from the tourist boom, the new airport will also help better connect Nepal with other neighboring countries including India," Yang said.

Yang added that when finding construction workers, the company had adopted a "Nepalese first" strategy and made an effort to hire more local people. 

A digital rendering of the Pokhara airport (Photo/Courtesy of China CAMC Engineering Co)
A digital rendering of the Pokhara airport (Photo/Courtesy of China CAMC Engineering Co)

The project has created more than 400 job opportunities, and as the project moves forward, about 600 job opportunities in total are expected created, according to materials the company sent to the Global Times on Thursday.

Yang has also been anticipating Chinese President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit, hoping that the high-level exchange will lead to increased infrastructure cooperation between the two countries. "Infrastructure capability in the country is still low, and there are many potential projects here that China could help with. We'd like to help construct Nepal and build more major infrastructure projects like the airport."


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