- Prachanda Man Shrestha
Nepal is one of the hundred percent secured destinations to explore in the world. This is what the tourists generally look for because before they decide to visit any country, they ask themselves, “Am I secured in that country.”
Of course, if we can give this message of security to the tourists in Nepal, then the tourists will come. There are many grounds for ensuring 100% security for the tourists, whereas no one can guarantee 100% security anywhere in the world.
First of all, the population of Nepal never looks at the tourists with a negative attitude because Nepal was never colonized in the past. People in Nepal are always on a lookout to help anyone who is in trouble.
Unless you are traveling in an area where there is no human settlement, if something goes wrong with you, the people are the first guarantee for your safety. We can claim it with full confidence. We can capture this human element to ensure the safety and security of the tourists in Nepal.
Since the government plans to bring in 2 million tourists in the Visit Nepal 2020, we have to seriously think of our national goal to promote tourism and achieve national progress, as to what is our authentic goal? Should we look for foreign currency only? Industrialization? Job creation? Or how do we look at our economy sector?
These are the major issues to be addressed. It may change as per the time and situation too. When the nation achieves its basic essentials, it may look forward to extra-luxuries. We must be alert against our people going abroad to enjoy entertainment and a decreased number of international tourists arriving in Nepal. This trend will also cause a trade deficit.
According to recent data published by Nepal Rastra Bank, the exchange of dollar by our Nepalese going abroad is more than the dollar exchanged by the tourists arriving in Nepal. It means we are having a business deficit in Nepal. I will elaborate on how it happened.
Initially, we depended upon the foreign dollar to boost up our economy for which we tried to bring in more tourists, who would spend dollars in Nepal. However, we came to know now that our people are going abroad and exchanging dollars to study abroad or spend holidays for entertainment or look for medical treatment. It means we are importing education and educational services.
Export and Import
So, we have to increase our export of tourism services to the outside world. If we can invite more tourists, we will not have any trade deficit, but we cannot always depend upon the tourists. For example, in Pokhara, 70% of occupancy in hotels is due to internal tourists and not because of international tourists.
So, we need to go for satellite accounting to categorize what number of international tourists sustain our tourism by creating jobs and what number of external tourists are arriving in Nepal.
In the earlier days, national planning also aimed at bringing more tourists in Nepal to earn foreign currency to boost up our economy. But, later, we also planned to include tourists from neighboring countries like India and China.
One of the challenges for us is to make expensive and extensive advertisement for tour operators and convince the people that bringing more tourists to Nepal is less challenging and risky than making our people go abroad which is more risky and challenging. It must be one of the top priorities in our policies.
Our tour operators are now usually dependent upon ground handling. Their presence at the sources where tourists originate is completely zero. So, we offer our services to those tourists who are sold to us by foreign tour agencies.
Incentives to be taken
So the government should provide incentives to open branch offices for tour operators in foreign countries. Then only can it be possible to bring in as many tourists as possible as per our expectations?
So, it would mutually beneficial for tour operators to go on joint venturing with foreign tour operating agencies to be accountable to sell the tours here and in foreign countries also. This is the time to address the structural value chain deficiency by venturing with foreign tour operators and maintaining transparency in the sale of tourist destinations. For example, the tour operators at the source of tourism may quote a dollar 1000 per day for Nepal.
But when the tour operators compete for prices in Nepal, some of them might offer 150 dollars in place of 200 dollars, which means where that difference between 150 and 1000 dollar gone. These are some of the ways to address some of our lapses.
Finished Products of Tourism
The tourist spending per day in Nepal is very less because when it was 55 dollar spending per day it was considered less spending. Now, it has come down to 44 dollar which is less amount of spending per day by a tourist.
Now, I must enumerate how and why tourist’s arrival in Nepal is decreased. Two reasons are at work. One reason is that all the people from common men to planners, decision-makers are misled about how tourism operates. Let me tell you through highlights tourism that where has tourism not prospered, whether in the desert, in water, in mountains and in the places where heritage exists.
In Nepal, we say that Nepal has tourism opportunities. What are these opportunities? The mountains, rivers, jungles and natural beauty are considered to be abundant resources for tourism development in Nepal.
We say that we have rivers, jungles, valleys peaks and natural heritages for tourism. But I say that they are not the finished products of the tourism sector.
So, the existence of these potentials cannot promote tourism in Nepal. These are only raw materials for tourism. To promote the tourism industry these raw materials must be produced as finished products from the tourism industry which has not happened in Nepal.
(This feature is based on a conversation with Prachanda Man Shrestha-the former CEO of Nepal Tourism Board.)
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