Hot air bal­loon tours lift­ing Nepal’s tourism in­dus­try

Global Times - Weekend - - TRAVEL -

When a gi­ant col­or­ful bal­loon ap­peared on the ground near the pris­tine lake of the Fewa Lake in Nepal’s most pop­u­lar tourism des­ti­na­tion Pokhara on the morn­ing of Novem­ber 17, hun­dreds of peo­ple gath­ered for the un­usual scene with ex­cite­ment.

Soon, a few crew mem­bers ig­nited fire at the bot­tom of the bal­loon with the help of gas cylin­ders while the bal­loon slowly moved up to­wards the sky.

The his­toric mo­ment was wit­nessed and ap­pre­ci­ated by many in­clud­ing politi­cians, jour­nal­ists and lo­cal peo­ple as hot air bal­loon flights were com­mer­cially in­tro­duced for the first time in the city.

The in­au­gu­ral flight, which was cut short due to high wind speed, was at­tended by Prithvi Subba Gu­rung, the chief min­is­ter of Gan­daki Prov­ince, whose cap­i­tal is Pokhara.

“The hot air bal­loon will def­i­nitely con­trib­ute to the tourism of Pokhara. I be­lieve that it will en­able tourists to spend more days in the city to in­dulge in such recre­ational and ad­ven­tur­ous ac­tiv­i­ties. It’s a pos­i­tive start,” Gu­rung told the Xin­hua News Agency af­ter tak­ing a bal­loon flight.

He fur­ther shared that the bal­loon flight is ex­pected to con­trib­ute to their mis­sion to at­tract 2 mil­lion for­eign and do­mes­tic tourists to the prov­ince in 2022.

Bal­loon Nepal started the bal­loon flight ser­vice af­ter re­ceiv­ing au­tho­riza­tion from Nepal’s Civil Avi­a­tion of Au­thor­ity, with two bal­loons bought from a Span­ish com­pany.

“Through the bal­loon flight, one can feel the ma­jes­tic Hi­malayan ranges and the beauty of Pokhara closely. We want to sup­port the tourism of the coun­try through this recre­ational avi­a­tion ac­tiv­ity,” com­pany sec­re­tary Pra­bin Ma­har­jan told Xin­hua.

Ma­har­jan said that the com­pany is start­ing its com­mer­cial op­er­a­tion from Dham­pus, a vil­lage lo­cated some 22 kilo­me­ters away from Pokhara. The flight will en­able the pas­sen­gers to have a view of five moun­tains – An­na­purna, Dhaula­giri, Fish­tail, Mardi and Him­chuli.

Ac­cord­ing to the tech­ni­cal team mem­bers, the hot air bal­loon op­er­a­tion is not that com­plex, how­ever it re­quires cer­ti­fied equip­ment, an ex­pe­ri­enced pi­lot and, most of all, good weather.

Cur­rently, the hot air bal­loon is be­ing op­er­ated by a pro­fes­sional pi­lot from In­dia along with Nepali crew mem­bers.

Pi­lot Nitesh Parheik, who has been work­ing in this in­dus­try for a few years, told Xin­hua, “Pokhara val­ley is beau­ti­ful and peo­ple can see the stun­ning views of moun­tains from above, so I think it’s a per­fect des­ti­na­tion for bal­loon­ing.”

The pi­lot, who has flown as high as 3,000 me­ters, told Xin­hua, “The bal­loon flight is to­tally safe as we fol­low glob­ally rec­og­nized stan­dards of safety. Pas­sen­gers’ safety is al­ways the fore­most pri­or­ity for us.”

On the first day, at least three com­mer­cial flights were held while hun­dreds of peo­ple booked tick­ets. For Nepali peo­ple, the flight costs $100, while it costs $160 for for­eign tourists.

Twenty-six-year-old pho­tog­ra­pher Yush Dan­gol, who ex­pe­ri­enced the bal­loon flight on the open­ing day, told Xin­hua, “It was my first time for such an air ad­ven­ture and it felt re­ally amaz­ing. I has a great view of the city from above.”

Air sports is quiet pop­u­lar in the Hi­malayan coun­try, espe­cially in the lake city Pokhara, which has been the ma­jor at­trac­tion for tourists.

Be­sides hot air bal­loon, Pokhara hosts air ac­tiv­i­ties like paraglid­ing, ul­tra­light flights and sky div­ing.

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