(Feature) Himalayan Air Festival to help revive Nepal's tourism industry

September 29, 2015 5:27 am 

POKHARA, Nepal, Sept. 28 — Nepal's tourism hub Pokhara, some 200 km west of the capital Kathmandu, is trying to help revive the Himalayan nation's tourism industry, which has been severely affected by the April 25 killer earthquake.

For two days, tourists and locals alike were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle over the sky during the first Himalayan Air Festival.

There was a vibrant and colorful display in the September sky of paragliding tandems, balloons, wind tubes, banners, flags, flowers and multi-colored smoke emitted from light planes.

The Himalayan Air Festival-Garud Fun 2015 was a fiesta of air adventures and fun organized for the first time in Nepal.

Exhibitions during the festival, which coincided with the World Tourism Day on Sunday, included air sports like paragliding, para-motor, ultra light flights, hot air balloon and aerial acrobatics.

Sovit Baniya, organizer of the event and acting chairman of Nepal Air Sports Association, said that the air festival was the first of its kind not only in Nepal but also in South Asia.

"Through the event, we want to disseminate the message that Nepal is still safe after the earthquake since 90 percent of tourism destinations in the country are intact," Baniya said.

The massive earthquake that devastated Nepal on April 25 had a huge impact on the country's tourism industry with an estimated lost income of around 81.24 billion rupees (US$ 768 million). A total of 790,118 tourists had visited Nepal in 2014, but this year tourist arrivals are expected be much less.

Baniya said the air festival is expected to encourage foreign tourists to visit the landlocked Himalayan nation.

"Despite the quake, tourism destinations in Nepal are safe and still beautiful," Nepalese Minister for Culture and Tourism Kripasur Sherpa said during the opening of the festival on Saturday.

Foreign and local tourists gamely joined the two-day festival which was held in Sarangkot, a mountainous station with an altitude of 1,500 meters.

As many as 50 foreign pilots from Nepal, China, India, Russia, Germany, Venezuela and Finland participated in the fete.

Paragliding pilots were seen descending attired in religious costumes with full make-up and hair-do as the major attraction of the event. The event used "Garuda," which means flying God in Hindu mythology, as its theme.

Bijay Dahal, 24, a paragliding pilot dressed as Lord Ganesh with a plump belly and wearing a colorful trunk, told Xinhua that he had been flying for the past five years but this was the first time that he witnessed such kind of festival.

"I am happy to fly in this attire and I want to invite the foreign tourists to join us in air adventure," Dahal said.

Pokhara is the fifth commercial paragliding destination in the world with a breathtaking view of snow-capped mountains, green hills and placid waters of the Fewa Lake.

There are nearly 150 paragliding pilots in Nepal, 107 of them have received their pilot license only weeks ago. According to Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, more than 50 companies have registered for the festival.

During the event, pilots also performed different aerobatics while ultra light planes showered flowers and emitted multi-colored smoke from the air to the delight of the spectators.

"The air festival is unique and mixture of adventure and fun. I hope the number of foreign tourists will grow in the coming days to revive our business," said Shradha Shrestha, an officer with Avia Club Nepal, pioneer in air sports activities in Pokhara.

More than 200,000 tourists enjoy the air adventures in Pokhara' s sky every year. (PNA/Xinhua)

LGI/SSC

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