- Bikash Lamsal: Gandaki State Tourism Minister
We gave top priority to tourism after seeing the optimal feasibility of tourism in Gandaki province. In the past, agriculture, industry, energy and tourism were also on our agenda, but this time we stressed more on tourism.
Tourism: Tool of Prosperity
We realized that tourism can only garner our prosperity. We know that nature, culture and adventure are the main source of tourism in Gandaki province. The nature has given us a plethora of natural destinations. Gandaki is the main center of diverse ethnic cultures in terms of diverse language, culture and literature.
We are very rich in cultural and natural heritages which ultimately provide the prime basis for the optimum feasibility of tourism and job creation in the province.
We are dedicated more to tourism because tourism can bring prosperity not only for our Gandaki province, but also for the whole country as well.
Tourism Policies and Plans
Now, we have started working for few fundamental plans and policies related to tourism. The year 2021 is going to open the door to international market for us as the international planes will start to arrive by that time.
We can take all the tourists to various destinations here. We can also take them to all 11 districts of Gandaki province which are typically different and distinct in their respective features which can’t be found elsewhere.
We are located at such a center point that three of our other provinces are located to the western side, while three provinces are located to the eastern side of Gandaki and two giant nations such as China lies in the north while India lies south of Gandaki.
China has the higher population than that of Europe. Gandaki is the center for religious pilgrimages to the Southern Indian visitors.
The possibility of pilgrimages are increasing from Hindu circuit treks and Buddha circuit trek which can directly connect Gandaki to Indian region to attract tourists. That’s why we have made tourism as our road map to achieve prosperity.
Glorious Gandaki and Paradise Pokhara
We have seen future of tourism. We are constructing infrastructure for bungee jump, grounds for sports tourism, health tourism, Yoga and caving. If you mediate in the Himal region you will automatically feel relieved from your depression. So, the whole region of Gandaki is like a hospital.
We just want to promote tourism not by distorting it but by promoting the nature,
We have bird tourism with over 1000 birds to observe for the bird watchers. Many more things are there. By nature, it is a paradise itself. Our slogan for tourism is: Glorious Gandaki and Paradise Pokhara. So, we are trying to manage everything accordingly.
Now, we are facing the problem of access only. Tourists usually come via four ways. That is by air, by sea, by travel or by trekking. We don’t have access to ship route by sea. In our case tourists can only come to us via three ways-by road air and travel.
We are thinking of expanding our air route to other seven provinces, China and India. Last year only 20 million Chinese traveled across the globe. If only we could bring 1% of them to Nepal, how nice it would have been.
Electric Energy and Organic Food
One of the major necessity for tourism promotion is electric energy for which we are mulling over various sources of energy such as alternative energy, solar to produce electric energy for 24 hours.
We are focusing on agricultural organic products also. We have supported a lot of farmers to produce organic food stuffs.
Extension of Road and Infrastructure
We are thinking of how to produce souvenirs for the tourists. Now the road is the main infrastructure for the tourism. We want to extend our road access to all other 11 districts of this province. So, we might open technical schools or university. But we lack the efficient man power to work here. Chinese are coming to us every day and saying that they would like to Make Pokhara a bright tourist destination.
Then the main thing is security and good facilities for the tourists. Tourists have increased by 10% after our Gandaki government came into force. The investors have also increased by now.
We are trying to connect tourism with rural tourism. We are thinking of how to connect rural products to tourism? We have promoted rural homestays. Around 274 homestays have come up for tourism. The homestays are also promoting cultural values. The locals know that it is their precious value to protect their cultures and traditions.
Our tourism policy is connected to rural life. People are enthusiastic, and we are able to prevent some of the youths from going abroad. The homestays have constructed many toilets. 274 homestays out of 300 are registered in Gandaki province.
Tourism has contributed to national GDP as well. Many of the homestays have been able to invest in the public activities like donating to the sick persons and for the sake of community welfare.
This kind of partnership between state and the local people has already developed due to rural tourism. The new generation has also understood that engaging in such community activities is one of the corner stones of collective responsibility.
Internal visit year 2019
Our target is for 2022 during which we would like to bring at least 2 million tourists, although bringing 2 million is the national goal of the central government.
We have prepared all our local clubs and homestays to get ready for 2019 which is internal visit year. Our 2020 visit year is targeted for our neighbors, Bangladesh and SAARC members including China and India.
In 2021 our international planes will bring more tourists. If one flight brings 200 passengers, how many will come in 20 flights per day. It would be 4000 tourist in one day. You can count how many will come in one year.
I think the critics from outside are only slamming our steps and polices. Now only we have increased our tourism by 10%.
We don’t think we have brought our policies related to tourism in a brisk manner. We are gradually addressing our new challenges, issues and problems related to tourism.
Actually tourism is limitless area. We are working on it. We are coordinating with the federal government also. We are considering to develop a triangle of tourism by connecting Pokhara with Lumbnini, Kathmandu and Chitwan.
Similar things can be done for tourism oriented places like Pathibara in the east and Khaptad in the far west if possible.
The mainstream center point of tourism is Pokhara, Kathmandu, Lumbini and Chitwan.
Now we are decentralizing power to the local units and people. The local units and people also should implement the directives in coordination with us and with transparency and responsibility.
(This article is based on conversation with Bikash Lamsal: Minister for Industry, Tourism, and Forest and Environment- Gandaki province.)
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