China emerged as the largest source market of foreign tourists to Nepal in January this year as the Himalayan country welcomed 15,343 Chinese tourists, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) said on Tuesday.
India, traditionally the largest source market, came second with 14,650 tourists, according to NTB.
Kalyan Raj Sharma, managing director of trekking agency Adventure Outdoor, told Xinhua on Tuesday that the number of Chinese tourists began to rise ahead of the Chinese Lunar New Year that began on Feb. 5.
Winter used to be considered an off-season for Nepal's tourism in the past, when the country largely relied on Western tourists for visitor arrivals. "The landscape has now changed as growing number of Chinese and Indian visitors coming to Nepal in the winter. There is no off-season now," said Sharma.
Meanwhile, the Himalayan country welcomed a total of 91,793 foreign tourists in January this year, a 25.4-percent rise compared to the same period in 2018.
This has been encouraging sign for Nepal as the country is gearing up for the Visit Nepal Year-2020 with the target of attracting 2 million tourists in the year. In 2018 the Himalayan country received a record high of 1.1 million tourists, according to the NTB.
NTB Chief Executive Officer Deepak Raj Joshi said the growth in international visitor arrivals in the beginning of 2019 was possible because Nepal has continuously spread positive message internationally.
"This growth has encouraged us to work even harder to harness the strengths of both public and private sector in the days to come," he said, according to the NTB statement.
After China and India, Thailand came third, followed by the United States and South Korea in top five countries contributing the largest number of foreign tourists to Nepal in January.