DAMBAR KRISHNA SHRESTHA
Air traffic to and from Pokhara was at a record high last year. Narendra Bahadur Thapa, chief of Pokhara Airport, says that 2010 has been the city's best year for travel, with 25,500 flights taking off from Pokhara, up from 22,700 in 2000. This is despite the fact that traffic actually went down after 2000 due to the insurgency.
"The number of flights hit the lowest point in 2002, when it was just 16,200. After 10 years, 2010 has set a new record," says Thapa. "Increase in the number of foreign as well as local tourists has fueled the demand for flights."
Even compared to 2009, there was a 20 per cent increase last year in the number of air passengers. While 301,091 passengers used the airways during 2009, this number jumped to 360,100 in 2010. Thapa explains that the popularity of ultralight aircraft has also contributed to the rise in air traffic.
October to December is the best season for tourist arrivals in Pokhara, followed by mid-February to May. On an average, 70 flights take off from the airport daily. On a busy day, this can be as high as 130. Says Buddha Air's station manager Gautam Baral: "If there is peace and stability in the country, this number will definitely rise."