KATHMANDU: Nepal’s tourism sector generated Rs240.7 billion in revenue and supported more than 1.05 million jobs directly and indirectly last year, according to the annual World Travel and Tourism Council research report. The London-based organisation said that travel and tourism’s total contribution to the country’s gross domestic product stood at 7.9 percent last year, up 3.6 percent.

This primarily reflects the economic activity generated by industries such as hotels, travel agencies, airlines and other passenger transportation services, excluding commuter services. It also includes, for example, the activities of the restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists.

The Travel and Tourism Economic Impact 2019 report released last month said the industry was expected to create more than 1.35 million jobs directly and indirectly by 2029. The total contribution of the travel and tourism industry to the gross domestic product was Rs195 billion in 2017. The report said that domestic tourists spent 56 percent of the total Rs240.7 billion revenue generated by the tourism industry last year.

Nepalis started visiting their own country after the earthquake of 2015, and there is a massive domestic tourist movement, said Deepak Raj Joshi, chief executive officer of the Nepal Tourism Board.

Apart from traditional leisure destinations like Pokhara and Chitwan, the famous Annapurna Circuit trekking route has been a big draw for domestic adventurers lately. The scenic walking trail across the Annapurna mountain range in central Nepal has been pulling domestic thrill seekers in droves, said Joshi.

The number of sightseers travelling from Beni to Jomsom by motorcycle has also risen sharply after the construction of the road. Hordes of Nepalis travelled to Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha, last year. More than 1.55 million tourists visited Lumbini in 2017, and among them there were 1.25 million domestic visitors.

Rara Lake, the country’s biggest and deepest freshwater lake in Mugu, has also been attracting domestic visitors for the past few years. Until a few years ago, Rara used to receive only a few visitors, but it has been gradually gaining popularity among Nepalis lately.

There is no actual statistic of domestic tourist movement but, according to Joshi, an estimated 5 million Nepali sightseers roamed the country last year. The figure is based on ticket sales at national parks, world heritage sites and restricted areas in the mountain regions, and tour packages, Joshi said.

Foreign arrivals crossed the one-million mark for the first time in 2018 when the country hosted 1.17 million visitors from abroad. According to the Nepal Tourism Board, Nepal tourism reached the magic figure due to a jump in arrivals from India, China, the US, Sri Lanka and the UK.

The number of tourists visiting Nepal recorded a 24.77 percent growth over last year. Among the total arrivals, 969,287 individuals came by air. Arrivals from Nepal’s southern neighbour grew 25.1 percent to 200,438 individuals. Indian tourists who travel to Nepal overland are not included in the tourism statistics.

The Travel and Tourism Economic Impact report said that Nepal is expected to receive 1.2 million foreign visitors this year. The report said that the share of Indian visitors to Nepal last year was 16 percent followed by China (12 percent), the US (8 percent), Sri Lanka (7 percent) and the UK (6 percent).

According to the report, leisure travel spending (foreign and domestic) generated 87 percent of the direct travel and tourism gross domestic product in 2018. Business spending accounted for 13 percent of the direct travel and tourism gross domestic product.