Tourists to Nepal up 45 per cent since peace deal

KATHMANDU, June 11, 2007 (AFP) – Tourism arrivals to Nepal have shot up nearly 45 percent since former Maoist rebels ended their bloody “people’s war” at the end of 2006, officials said Monday. Landlocked and impoverished, Nepal relies on tourism for about four percent of the country’s economy employment for some 300,000 people. “The last five months have shown encouraging signs of growth in the tourism sector,” said Tourism Board spokesman Aditya Baral.

He said foreign visitors arriving by air between January and May rose 43.4 percent to 143,000 compared to the same period last year.

“We are expecting record numbers of tourist arrivals this year if the current trend continues.”

Foreign tourist arrivals peaked at nearly 500,000 in 1999, but dipped to 283,000 by last year.

Nepal’s Maoists and an interim government signed a landmark peace deal in November 2006 that ended a war which had claimed at least 13,000 lives.

Earlier this year, the former rebels were given seats in government and have placed their weapons and army under UN monitoring.

Nepal was shunned by international tour groups last year when three weeks of nationwide protests in April led to King Gyanend