Tourism industry booms
The nation had its best ever year for tourism last year, with most of the growth coming from neighboring India and China, according to official figures released yesterday. Once a must-see destination on the famed “hippy trail,” Kathmandu was dealt a severe blow during the decade-long civil war that ended in 2006, with tourist numbers dropping dramatically. However, the new data show a marked recovery, with tourism accounting for 7 percent of GDP — more than US$1 billion — last year. The Tourism Board said there were 719,547 visitors last year, including those traveling over land. About 545,000 came through the country’s only international airport in Kathmandu, 21 percent up on the previous year.
Diplomats discuss N Korea
Senior US and Chinese diplomats yesterday discussed North Korea and whether the death of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il would delay the resumption of talks on the country’s nuclear disarmament and deliveries of US food aid. US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell is the highest-level US official to visit the region since Kim’s unexpected death two weeks ago raised new concerns about the nation’s stability. Campbell met yesterday with Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai (崔天凱). Also on the agenda in Beijing were discussions about warming relations between the US and Myanmar, which has relied heavily on Chinese trade, investment and diplomatic support.
Breast implants to be probed
The Therapeutic Goods Administration was scheduled to meet yesterday to assess whether potentially faulty French-made breast implants pose a health threat to women. The expert panel was expected to discuss safety concerns about silicon implants made by the now-defunct French company Poly Implant Prothese. The implants were made with cheap industrial silicone instead of medical grade silicone. They were banned last year in countries around the world after more than 1,000 women in France suffered ruptures. About 8,900 of the implants have been used in Australian women. The administration said it was reviewing information on rupture rates and consulting with cosmetic surgery experts.
Ticket system struggles
A new online system designed to make it easier for people to buy train tickets home for the Lunar New Year is struggling to cope with huge demand from millions of travelers across the nation. The week-long holiday, also known as the Spring Festival, is the world’s biggest annual migration of people, with more than 200 million people returning home to celebrate with their families. The Ministry of Railways had hoped the online booking system would make it easier for migrant workers, many of whom spend days queuing up at train stations, sometimes in freezing weather, to get a ticket. Although the holiday officially begins on Jan. 23, demand for tickets is high many weeks in advance. Train tickets for the holiday went on sale on Sunday, but people have complained that Web site glitches left them out of pocket and with no ticket — if they were lucky enough to log on to the site. Travelers flooded social networking sites to vent their anger at spending hours trying to access the new system, only to find that tickets allocated for that day had already sold out. However, others said they were happy with the new system, which means they no longer have to leave their home to buy a ticket.