Hot air balloon tours lifting Nepal’s tourism industry
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.