Adopt Broader Tourism Perspective
Nepal has abundance of resources in tourism. However, the government is still not utilizing the available resources properly. Nepal is rich in terms of adventure activities, natural attractions, religion and philosophy, culture and history, customs and traditions; all of them are the ornaments of the nation, which are directly or indirectly related to Nepali tourism.
Recent trends in tourism
According to the data of Department of Immigration, Nepal welcomed 940,218 tourists in 2017. Among them, Indian tourists topped the list with 160,832 visitors. Chinese tourists were second with 104,664 visitors while the American (79,146), the British (51,058) and Sri Lankan (45,361) were in the third, fourth and fifth position, respectively.
If we see the recent tourism trends in Nepal, most of the tourists from America, UK and Europe come to Nepal for various adventure activities like mountaineering, trekking, rafting, paragliding and others. Majority of tourists from Asia also travel to Nepal for religious, cultural and natural attractions. Chinese tourists have also occupied a good market share in Nepali tourism recently.
However, tourists from the Middle East should be targeted by promoting Nepali tourism through the local languages in various Arab countries. Most of the Arabian tourists likejungle safari, camping, hiking, trekking and other natural attractions and adventures.
Recalling an incident
I remember while returning from Muktinathwith my friends in 2008, we got an opportunity to stay in a naturalhot spring water for hours atTatopani. At that time I got a chance to meet a tourist who was also staying in the same hot spring water from hours. I was eager to know about his purpose of visit to Nepal, so I asked him about his interest of visiting Nepal and I was surprised after hearing his answer. He told me that he was in Nepal only to stayin that particular hot spring water for medical purpose. It was amazing for me torealize that tourists come to Nepal just to stay in natural hot spring water. Our nature has gifted us with so refreshing and amazing resources that Nepal is really a marvelous country to be.
But the main point is that even though our country possesses hundreds of such natural hot springs, which can generate a lot of revenue and employment opportunities within the nation, why is the government not utilizing such resources? Management of such tourism spots doesn’t even need a lot of budget. With the promotion of such natural medical destinations all around the world, definitely large number of tourists can be attracted to Nepal.
Some historical facts
If we see the history, tourism in Nepal had been started only after 1951 when the county was turned into a democratic nation. However, due to political instability proper governmental plans and policies were not implemented for the development of tourism within the nation.
If we see the history, most of the countries including Italy, Switzerland and others focused on development of road transportation centuries ago, as it was the only major form of transportation in the past. After the beginning of air transportation bycommercial airlines since the 19th century the new age of transportation evolved so rapidly that today the whole world is connected by air.
Need of air transport
The air transportation in Nepal began with the establishment of Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA) in 1949. Since then about 50 domestic airports have been founded all over the nation. However, most of these airports are not in regular operation. Likewise, still today we are having only TIA as the sole international airport with very less capacity and parking facilities.
Now the point is that to promote Nepali tourism internationally the international airport of Nepal should also be upgraded. The government should work for immediate construction of the domestic airport nearby the Kathmandu valley so as to further develop TIA as an exclusive international airport which will be very fruitful for bringing in huge number of international touristswithin a short timeframe.
Nepal possesses plenty of natural resources including the highest Himalayan ranges, dense forests, waterfalls, various rivers and lakes, therefore being a geographically landlocked nation, Nepal should focus more on the enhancement of air transportation. Development of land transportation in a landlocked nation like Nepal is time consuming and expensive. On the other hand, development in land transportation also degrades the natural resources, creating easy accessibilities to nature among the public resulting in deforestation, illegal trade and other negative impacts. So to preserve all these resources of Nepal, the country should focus more on development of air transportation.
Along with air transport, other integral elements in tourism like hotels and stays, food and facilities, safety and services should be equally enhanced. The country should focus more on enriching tourism services which in turn promotes Nepali tourism. We have a famous slogan in Sanskrit(AtithiDevoBhava) which means ‘Our guest is equivalent to God’, but now the question is, how practical we are to follow this slogan. How kind and hospitable are we to serve our tourists? Many tourists are found to be cheated by the service providers, so the government should be very sincere to check such activities.
Need of homestay tourism
Recently the trend of homestay tourism has increased in Nepal. It is also one of the best factors to promote Nepali tourism from every local level. Homestay tourism canbe enhanced further along with the support from the central and local government. Community homestay can be operated among various urban and rural areas of Nepal with systematic management. Like the chain hotel business in tourism, chain homestay concept can also be introduced with unique brand name and the services, which will also automatically provide employment opportunities, mutual cooperation among the community people and uplift their normal living standard. Well managed homestay tourism within the country can attract a large number of budget tourists.
Use of technology
Information Technology (IT) has been so advanced across the world that today every tourist can get plenty of information and services from their own mobiles and gadgets. Now the question is, how can we use IT for promoting tourism? How IT-friendly is our government?
Tourists are not getting complete online visa services till today. They have to stand in a long queue to pay for their visa upon their arrival at the TIA while baggage collection service at TIA is another big problem faced by majority of tourists coming to Nepal.
Being a small nation, Nepal can easily practice Cashless Payment System (CPS). CPS is an emerging trend which is more favourable and secure as well. CPS is also transparent and easy to operate by both government as well as individuals (tourists). Our government should focus on such new technologies as well.
To be successful in today’s global tourism market, Nepal government should have dedicated plans and policies on tourism sector which can make significant contributions to the nation within a short time period.
Institute Nepal Tourism Corporation
Finally, Nepal government should take steps to establish Nepal Tourism Corporation (NTC)for the enhancement of tourism services in every level within the nation. NTC can be operated as a direct tourist service provider from the government side. At present, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) is doing some work as a direct tourist service provider which is not enough. As NTB has more work in promoting Nepali tourism and tourism campaigning, NTC can be introduced so as to develop Nepali tourism products and services.
Narayan Kaji Shrestha is the secretariat member and spokesperson of the ruling Nepal Communist Party. Although he had staked his claim to the post of...