- Birat Anupam
Kathmandu: Today, the entire world is in the festive mood of World Tourism Day 2021. The slogan for this years’ celebration is ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth’. World Tourism Day celebration began in 1980. September 27 is chosen to commemorate the day of the statutes of the World Tourism Organization of 1970, the United Nations Organizations responsible for the tourism sector.
UNWTO was established on 1 November 1975. In the same year, Nepal got its membership making it one of the founding states of UNWTO. Headquartered in Madrid of Spain, UNWTO is Nepal’s UN partner for tourism activities.
Before talking about, Nepal’s tourism world, it is required to know some important facts and figures of it. Here are some of them.
1. Nepal’s tourism history is associated with Himalayan adventures
In the early days of the 1950s, Nepal started to issue climbing permits to foreign adventures to scale Nepal’s unclimbed tallest peaks on the planet. During the Premiership of last Rana Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher, Nepal permitted the French team to scale either Dhaulagiri or Annapurna. The French team led by Maurice Herzog scaled Mt. Annapurna, the tenth tallest peak on the planet and the first one among the eight thousand plus meters of height, on 3 June 1950. Two historic climbing partners were Herzog and his friend Louis Lachenal.
Sherpa Sirdar Ang Tharkay helped them make this historic human record on the Himalayas. That dawned the development of Nepal’s tourism. According to a report by New York Times, the Annapurna ascent book authored by Herzog titled ‘Annapurna’ was sold 11 million copies until 2000. According to a report by France24, a French Government-run media outlet, Annapurna was translated into 40 languages. The book was also listed among 100 adventure books of all time by National Geographic Magazine. This worked as catalysts to brand and expand Nepal’s international glamour.
After the historic summit on Everest on 29 May 1953 by Nepal’s Tenzing Norgay and New Zealander Edmund Hillary, it got further global attention paving the way for Nepal’s rapid tourism promotion all around the world.
2. Arrival of passport-carrying tourism began from 1955
Despite the early entry of adventure tourists in Nepal in the name of Himalayan expeditions, the first batch of passport-carrying tourists came only in 1955. The trip was managed by Kolkata-based Thomas Cook and Sons, the very famous travel agency. The visit was managed by Boris Lisanevich, the first tourism entrepreneur in Nepal who had established Nepal’s first tourist class hotel named ‘Royal Hotel’ which was located at the today’s Election Commission office of Kathmandu. Boris, a Ukrainian living in Kolkata of India, had befriended King Tribhuwan during his occasional visits to Kolkata, had established the 40-room iconic hotel in partnership with Basundhara, the son of Tribhuwan. A book on Boris titled ‘Tiger for Breakfast’ details this connection. Boris had persuaded newly crowned King Mahendra whose coronation ceremony was held on 2 May 1955. A group of elderly women was the first batch of passport-carrying tourists in Nepal. Boris had managed their stays, accommodations, and traveling inside Nepal.
3. Delay in maintaining tourism statistics and the arrival curve
Nepal only started to make strong record-keeping of tourist arrival from 1964. No strong tourism statistics are available before 1964. In addition, about the length of stay, this was only recorded properly since 1973.
The growth of tourists in Nepal is at a snail’s pace. In 1964, the arrival digit was 9526. Nepal only reached the one million mark in 2018. That year, Nepal welcomed 1,173,072.
The Year 2019 received the highest number of tourists in the tourism history of Nepal. 1,197,191 tourists made their footfalls in Nepal that year. The year 2020 is a very troubling year in the tourism history of Nepal as was the case all over the world owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, just 230,085 tourists arrived in Nepal, said Nepal Tourism Board. It was 80 percent lesser than the previous year.
4. Tourism authority was a latecomer in Nepal’s tourism world
Nepal welcomed foreign tourists from the 1950s. It got UNWTO membership in 1975. The Ministry of Tourism was constituted after three years of UNWTO entry in 1978. Nepal Tourism Board was established in 1998. These dates speak volumes about Nepal’s slow pace towards institutional development in Nepal’s tourism world which hampered a lot in terms of legislation and strong regulation, research as well as record-keeping.
5. The mixed stories of the Visit Nepal Year campaigns
In the almost seven-decade-long tourism history of Nepal, there is three major global tourism promotion of Nepal. They were promoted in the name of Visit Nepal Year.
The historic Visit Nepal Year was held in 1998. There were six major objectives of this pioneering tourism celebration. Which aimed to brand Nepal as the new tourism destination in the world and to increase stays in Nepal.
Visit Nepal 1998 slogan was: A World of Its Own. The year did not make a drastic difference in terms of arrival. Just 9.9 percent growth was recorded compared to the previous year of 1997. In 1997 also, the growth rate was 7.2 percent. In 1998, a total of 463,684 tourists came to Nepal. According to The Government-unveiled Nepal Tourism Statistics, in terms of stays, the average length of stay was increased from 10.49 days to 10.76 days.Nepal celebrated its second major Visit Nepal Year 2011 targeting one million tourist arrival. Tragically, only 736, 215 tourists came to Nepal. However, the average length of stay from the previous year was increased from 12.67 days to 13.12 days. The tourism growth was 22.1 percent which was a little more compared to its previous year’s growth rate of 18.2 percent. The slogan of Visit Nepal Year 2011 was ‘Together for Tourism’.
The scheduled Visit Nepal 2020, with an aim to lure 2 million tourists, was ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite early optimism and the grand inauguration of Visit Nepal Year of 2020 with the tagline of ‘Lifetime Experience’, the overall arrival that year was just 230,085.
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