Nepal saw a record number of international tourists in 2016, giving the country a boost after numbers plummeted following a major earthquake in 2015, officials said Monday.

A total of 729,550 international travelers visited Nepal last year, the Immigration Department said, although figures on Indian tourists who crossed the porous border into Nepal weren’t included in the calculation.

Tourist arrivals increased by 31 percent compared to 2015, when 554,747 foreign tourists visited the country, which was hit by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on April 25, 2015, killing 9,000 people, including foreign tourists, and damaging trekking trails and world heritage sites.

Nepal’s neighbours, India and China, topped the list of countries for tourists to Nepal, with the United States coming third, according to the data released last week.

Sharad Pradhan, a spokesman for the Nepal Tourism Board, a state agency that promotes tourism, attributed the rise to goodwill and publicity Nepal garnered after the earthquake.

“European and Americans who had a soft spot for Nepal thought that visiting our country would be the best way to help us recover from the earthquake. Guidebooks such as 'Lonely Planet' and 'Rough Guides' also helped our cause by promoting Nepal as a favorite destination,” Pradhan told dpa.

Last year, the travel and tourism sector contributed 4 per cent to the gross domestic product of Nepal, which aims to attract 1 million foreign tourists by 2018.

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