China is now being seen as one of the most important source countries for Nepal's tourism industry, accounting for 7.5 per cent of its gross domestic product, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has indicated.
Deepak Raj Joshi, CEO of NTB, was quoted by the South China Morning Post, as saying that Chinese arrivals today are the "fastest growing segment of tourism in Nepal."
He said that after 2015, year-on-year, there has been a 20 to 30 percent growth in the number of Chinese arrivals in Nepal.
"Only a decade ago, Chinese tourists amounted to about 30,000-35,000 annually. This year we are expecting nearly 40,000 for this Lunar New Year holiday season alone," Joshi was quoted, as saying.
Last year, India was the top tourist source country, with 160,000 air arrivals, followed by China, at 104,000, the SCMP reported.
"This year, we expect about 160,000 to 170,000 from India, and China to narrow the gap substantially by going up to 130,000 to 135,000. While Indians are travelling further afield, Nepal is still a new destination for the Chinese," Joshi was quoted, as saying.
Economically, China has already begun establishing a major presence in Nepal, building airports in the popular holiday town of Pokhara, a gateway to the Annapurna Circuit trekking trail and Lumbini, where Lord Buddha is said to have been born.
Currently, five Chinese carriers - Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, Sichuan Airlines and Tibet Airlines-operate flights to Nepal. Once cross-border land traffic picks up, Chinese tourist numbers are expected to grow exponentially.
China is a one of the top contributors to global outbound travel. It is currently pegged at ten per cent of the total, the SCMP report said.