An agreement has been reached between Nepal and China to start flights on the Kathmandu-Lhasa route in 2010, making Nepal the first country to operate flights to Lhasa.

Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation of Nepal Murari Bahadur Karky and Deputy Director-General of the Tibet Tourism Administration Wang Songping signed the agreement here at the Nepal Tourism Board on Monday.

While Nepal’s state-owned Nepal Airlines will start the direct flight to Lhasa, China Airlines will operate Canton-Lhasa-Kathmandu flights. Mr. Karky told The Hindu that the Nepal government had been requesting China for the last few years to start flights on the route. The Chinese side, he said, wanted Nepal to set up a liaison office of the Tibet Tourism Administration in Kathmandu.

As per the agreement, rafting would be promoted in the private sectors on both sides. A trekking trail from Lomanthang of Nepal to Mansarowar of China is also being considered to promote tourism.

China is one of the major countries to bring tourists to Nepal among the Asian countries. In 2008, 35,166 Chinese tourists visited Nepal. With direct flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa, the number of tourists will certainly rise in 2011, the year, which has been declared as Nepal Tourism Year. Meanwhile, Nepal has been listed as one of the top 10 countries of the world as tourism destination for 2010 by Lonely Planet.

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