Nepal, a Himalayan nation that faced a violent Maoist insurgency until a recent peace accord, hopes to attract more visitors from neighbor Bangladesh to boost its lucrative tourism industry, officials said Sunday.
"Nepal is going through peaceful changes," Ramesh Prasad Khanal, Nepal's acting ambassador, said at a tourism promotion event in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.
Khanal said visitors were safe in Nepal, which depends heavily on tourism.
A peace deal between the Nepalese government and Maoist rebels was signed in November last year, ending a decade-long armed conflict that claimed more than 13,000 lives. The former rebels joined Parliament in January and became part of an interim government this month.
Khanal said the deal had brought normalcy to the country and rescued it from verge of collapse.
The Nepal Tourism Board _ with a new slogan "Naturally Nepal: Once is not enough" _ is promoting short breaks for visitors from Bangladesh, which is separated from its landlocked neighbor by a small stretch of Indian territory and is only about an hour away by plane.
"Explore your next door neighbor," Khanal urged, adding that Nepal now offered free, on-arrival visas at airports for Bangladeshis.
Packages include weekend breaks for families or couples, or adventure trips in the mountains and forests, Nepal Tourism Board director Binay Prakash Shrestha said.
This year's focus is on the picturesque resort town of Pokhara, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of the capital, Katmandu, Shrestha added.
Over the past decade, visitors from Bangladesh, a low-lying delta nation, have been visiting Nepal attracted by its mountain and forest scenery. Many are also lured by the casinos and nightclubs on offer, which are not available in Muslim-majority Bangladesh, according to tour companies.
Shrestha said the government would look into demands by tour operators for better bus services and hotels between the border and tourist destinations for Bangladeshis traveling overland to Nepal.
Nepal opened up to foreigners in the 1950s, attracting mountaineers bent on conquering the Himalayan peaks, and became a popular destination for backpackers starting in the 1970s.