- Prachanda Man Shrestha
The tourism industry is lacking the capacity to promote tourism and bring more tourists to Nepal. Since we could not produce the finished products of tourism, we could not sell tourism products. So, we did not get the expected number of tourists.
The final and finished tourist product is possible if the sight, tourism activity, and facility are combined and are capable of addressing the needs of the tourists. For example, a tourist sight available in Nepal is not enough as the finished product.
It must also have developed tourist activities like pongee jump, kayaking, and then facilities needed for logistic purposes and eateries needed by the tourist all together will add to the final and finished product of tourism.
Promotion of Tourism
Tourism is promoted only when the tourist sight is supplemented with a good infrastructure invested either by the government or private sector and tourism activities are organized for this tourism sight.
So, we must encourage two more things to promote the tourism sector. One to increase the facilities for tourism and secondly to create tourism activities for the tourists to engage in. The government should encourage investment in enhancing the facilities in tourism by providing some facilities and incentives.
People-based tourism and not sight-based tourism must be focused to boost the local economy. We Nepalese are only good followers. We are not pioneers and entrepreneurs. Now we have trekking trails across the Himalayas because a foreigner started this trail long ago as he wanted to see the peak and mountains.
Why not develop this trail in the Terai where we go across the people’s villages and meet the people. The tourism product will gradually change after the federalism of Nepal will take its shape in investing for the tourist sights and developing infrastructures for the tourists.
Rara is a good example of how without infrastructure and other things like tourism activity and logistic support it continues to be visited lesser by the tourists. Now Pokhara has all the infrastructure for tourists they can go by local bus, plane and many other means of transportation. Everest camp is also reachable by plane.
Learning from the Maldives
Look at the Maldives, how it developed its tourism product. Earlier, it was a small island with 200 villages only. The people used to catch fishes and survive on fish.
Later, the government solicited all the foreign companies to invest in the tourism sector to open hotels build infrastructures and even bring their planes to ferry the passengers and asked these companies to give royalty to the Maldives government.
Now, the tourism has flourished more than in Nepal and when tourists arrive there they pay certain government tax which is an added advantaged surplus for the government.
In Nepal neither we are ready to do like what the Maldives did nor do we have our tourism industry capacities to invest. So, we will remain at the same level all the time. We have to look at three factors. 1) Tourist arrival 2) length of stay in Nepal and 3) Spending per day.
Composition and Segment
The composition and segment are changing which is responsible for the short stay of tourists in Nepal. At first in the 1950s and 1960s tourists used to come to Nepal to visit mountains, Everest for which 15 days trekking to reach base camp was necessary. So, the stay was longer in Nepal. But these days’ tourists come not to see mountains but the sight which is finished in one day. Where else are we able to engage the tourists? So the tourist stay is lesser these days.
In 2020 we going to bring 2 million tourists who are going to stay for one or two days only. It is a loss for us in that case. Who is going to be benefited by the visit year? Some hotels in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan and Everest region. Where are our people in the country? Nepal is one of the least homeless countries in the world.
We can tie up with homestays to benefit the local people in tourism. About the good quality of tourists, we cannot say that one who spends 20000 rupees in one night is quality tourists or one who comes to study our cultures and stays in huts in the villages for longer days. Spending less is not cheap. No, it is not. He may be a highly intelligent fellow to study the cultures of the village.
So we need to tap the segment wherein the local people can provide to the arriving tourists whatever foods they can. So, we have to decide what type of tourist we want and how much spending we expect from the tourists. The interpretation of more spending to be good and less spending to be low quality is wrong on our part.
Federalism and Tourism
In federalism, the local government should own natural heritage and tourist destinations. The province government should coordinate with the federal government about the existence of destinations and the central federal government should invest in big projects like international airports etc.
All the provinces can own the responsibility to set up their branch offices abroad to attract the tourist from the source of tourist origin. So. All provinces should set up their tourism boards and tourism marketing centers.
Domestic tourism can prosper in the off-seasons when hotels can give them free logistic offers to let them come and spend on eateries to balance the lapse of pick season and offseason.
If Chinese and Indian tourists are targeted for the visit year 2020, it may be possible to achieve the goal of bringing 2 million tourists to Nepal. We just have to catch up with the Indian and Chinese tour operators in Utter Pradesh and China.
(This feature is based on a conversation with Prachanda Man Shrestha -former CEO of Nepal Tourism Board)
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