As the government cautiously reopened to foreign visitors after the pandemic looked to be receding, the first overland Indian tourists in one and a half years crossed the Raxaul-Birgunj border crossing into Nepal.
Nepal closed the border with India in March 2020, when the coronavirus was at its peak, allowing only trucks transporting essential supplies to pass via the border crossing point.
Earlier this week, local authorities released the gates for vehicles with Indian licence plates, allowing Indian tourists to move freely around the area. An 1,800-kilometer-long porous border separates Nepal from India.
A cabinet resolution on September 21 to allow cross-border tourism and trade activity triggered the reorganisation.
The following day, on September 23, Nepal issued a new travel protocol that scrapped the seven-day quarantine restriction and reinstated the issuance of on-arrival visas to all vaccinated international visitors in an attempt to revive the country’s virus-ravaged tourism business.
At least 14 full days before entering Nepal, travellers should have received their most recent dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. In the event that you are not fully or partially vaccinated, you will not be able to obtain a visa upon arrival. There is a 10-day quarantine period at government-approved hotels once they obtain their admission permits from Nepali diplomatic posts.
The government has altered the travel policy, removing the requirement that all travellers submit to mandatory antigen or quick antigen tests at immigration entrance points, as was previously required.
The first van transporting Indian tourists arrived in Birgunj on Friday, according to tourism operators.
A party of four tourists, including Anuj Sinha, who was among the first to enter Nepal on Friday, stated, “We have planned our holiday journey up to Hetauda.” He expressed delight at being greeted so warmly at the crossing.
Vijay Kumar Sarawagi, the mayor of Birgunj Metropolitan City, predicted a rise in Indian tourist visits as a result of the lifting of the prohibition on vehicle travel.
People from both nations who were unable to travel owing to the Covid-19 outbreak will benefit from this agreement, according to the authors.
Tourism business owners have been pleading with local officials to allow Indian tourists back in for quite some time.
According to Hari Panta, head of the Hotel and Tourism Entrepreneurs Association in Birgunj, “Indian tourists are a significant contributor to Nepal’s tourism sector.”
In order for the tourism industry to recover, we must make it more convenient for Indian tourists to visit Nepal.” Nepal’s administration has finally agreed to allow Indian automobiles to enter the country following years of intense pressure. We applaud this decision.”
Following the cabinet decision, Harihar Poudel, the chief of the Birgunj Customs Office, stated that Indian passenger vehicles were now permitted to enter Nepal. “Tourists, on the other hand, must adhere to all health and safety precautions as outlined in the travel policy.
When entering Nepal through land border points, Indian nationals must present a Covid-19 negative report (RT-PCR, Gene Expert, True NAAT, or WHO recognised test) obtained within 72 hours of departure from the first port of embarkation, or within 72 hours if entering Nepal by sea.
They must present a printed copy of the international traveller online arrival form, which can be received after completing an online registration form at www.ccmc.gov.np, in order to obtain authorization to enter the country and enter the country.
Following the implementation of travel restrictions in late March of last year, businesses in the travel and tourism industry, which accounted for approximately 8% of the country’s gross domestic product and supported more than 1.05 million jobs directly and indirectly in pre-Covid times, were the hardest hit.
According to the Nepalese Department of Tourism, the country attracted 33,680 Indian tourists by flight in the first eight months of 2020. In terms of Indians crossing land boundary points, there is no information available. Indian visitors to the United States began to rebound in January and February, when 4,028 and 4,763 visitors, respectively, arrived in the country, according to official statistics.
Because the government reopened the country to foreign travellers in the spring in hopes of revitalising tourism and boosting the economy and employment, the total increased to 7,658 in March.
An increase in arrivals has been noted as a result, with 13,202 Indian tourists visiting Nepal in April.
In April, the country was plunged into a disastrous catastrophe as the second Covid-19 wave struck, with the government enacting stringent lockdown measures. On April 29, Nepal declared a second state of emergency. Because of this, the number of Indian tourists visiting the country dropped to 580 in May and 359 in June, respectively.
After around two months, the limitations were gradually eased, and as of September 1, practically everything has been reopened to the general public.
Currently, India is the most important source market for Nepal’s tourism industry. For the year 2019, Nepal received 1.17 million tourists by air and land routes, with Indians accounting for 209,611 of those arrivals.