Tourism entrepreneurs today sought help from the Sri Lankan ambassador to Nepal W M Senevirathna to restart Kathmandu-Colombo flights.
"Since there is a huge potential for religious tourism, especially Buddhism, in Nepal, direct flights on the Kathmandu-Colombo route will bring more Sri Lankan pilgrims to Nepal," said president of Nepal-Sri Lanka Chamber of Commerce and Industry Bhakta Bahadur Malla, at an interaction organised by the bilateral chamber here in the valley today.
It will not only strengthen bilateral relations between the two South Asian countries but also promote tourism, trade, social and religious relations, he said, adding that the promotion of bilateral trade will bring both the countries closer.
Explaining about the Buddhist Circuit, tourism entrepreneur Bikram Pandey, said that the promotion of Lumbini in Sri Lanka will help boost religious tourism in Nepal. "Since Lumbini is a holy place for Buddhists all over the world, it should be promoted in Buddhist Sri Lanka," he said, adding that the campaign 'Following the Buddha's Path' under the Buddhist Circuit will help promote Nepal's tourism. "A direct flight between Colombo and Kathmandu will help promote not only tourism but also trade."
"Both the governments are doing their homework on a direct Colombo-Kathmandu flight and it will materialise soon," said Senevirathna.
Some 12 years, the then RNAC, the current NAC stopped the Colombo flight.
Nepal should promote Lumbini in Sri Lanka as 80 per cent of Sri Lankans are Buddhists and most of them are interested in visiting Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, he said, adding that Nepal and Sri Lanka should promote bilateral economic, trade and tourism relations.
Due to the absence of a direct flight, Sri Lankan tourist arrivals have started to drop in recent times. From January to April — in the four months of 2013 — some 564 Sri Lankan tourists visited Nepal via air, whereas in the same period of 2012, some 648 Sri Lankan tourists had visited Nepal, according to Nepal Tourism Board. "Likewise, in April, only 130 Sri Lankan tourists arrived via air compared to 134 in the same month last year."
In recent years, Nepal's trade deficit has also been increasing with Sri Lanka — like with other countries — which can be reduced by promoting tourism in Sri Lanka.
According to Trade and Export Promotion Centre (TEPC) data, Nepal exported merchandise worth Rs 15.48 million, whereas it imported merchandise worth Rs 139.34 million in 2012. Similarly, Nepal had exported merchandise worth Rs 15.52 million and imported merchandise worth Rs 74.38 million in 2011.