KATHMANDU: Tourism has remained one of Nepal’s vital engines of economic growth. However, tourism in Nepal is confined to limited destinations since long. What’s more, the government plans to introduce more destinations seems neglected by the slackness in the progress in the field.
The government of Nepal has set an ambitious campaign to bring in over 2 million international tourists in 2020 under the Visit Nepal Year 2020 drive with a view to brand Nepal as the world’s major tourist destination.
As a means of exploring new virgin destinations, the government, in its last years program, had set the target of identifying 100 new tourism destinations with at least one more in each district.
As per the plan the Ministry for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation had identified and enlisted 200 destinations under three categories: established, to be promoted and to be developed. There were 100 new destinations included in the list.
However, due to the lack of resources and basic infrastructure, these places are shadowed. The government had allocated 1.10 billion for the development and promotion of these destinations.
Ministry to review the budget
Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation had allocated 5500 million rupees to 147 local authorities to initiate the destination promotion and infrastructure programs.
As the first installation of it, the local levels were allocated 2.5 to 5.5 million rupees. According to the Ministry, the allocated amount has to be spent in the infrastructure building.
After receiving the progress report, the ministry has issued a notice to the concerned agencies to apply for and receive the second installment by March 13.
According to the notice, the 147 local levels which include the Sub-metropolitan Cities, Metropolitan Cities, Municipalities and some wards will receive 2.5 to 5.5 million rupees as in the first installment.
When asked why some of the local authorities have not submitted the progress report, the spokesperson of the Ministry Rudra Singh Tamang guessed that those authorities must have been sans progress.
According to Spokesperson Tamang, some of those levels have failed to attain the desired progress and have not submitted the progress report. Due to lack of proper mechanism to monitor the progress made in those sectors, he confessed the government resource could have been abused in some places.
“Although the government has identified 100 destinations, the allocation has even gone to the places which can’t actually be deemed as destination at all,” he said. “In some places the budget has reached at the wrong places whereas few others which deserve the budget have not got it.”
Hinting at the same fact he said that there can be some changes in budget allocation strategy in the next budget. “Most probably, the budget allocation strategy will be changed in the coming year,” he said.
These destinations wait for promotion and development:
Tingbung Pokhari, Phungphunge Jharna(Taplejung), Guru Falgunanand Circuit(Panchthar), Tinjure-Milke-Jaljale(Tehrathum), Baleswor Historical Cave (Sankhuwasabha), Fikkal- Kanyam- Shree Antu Circuit(Ilam), Halde Patakedanda Trail (Dhankuta), Tyamkedanda(Bhojpur), Baraha Pokhari(Khotang), Panchpokhari (Solukhumbu), Thokledamba Danda(Okhaldhunga), Udayapurgadhi (Udayapur), Martyr Netralal Park, Gauradaha Agricultural Tourism Area, Arjundhara Tourism Area(Jhapa), Dhanpalgadhi Tourism Area (Morang), Pindeshwor-Dantakali Trail(Sunsari) are regarded as the destinations to be developed and promoted in Province 1.
The places to be promoted in Province No. 2 include: Sahalesh Palace Tourism Area(Siraha), Nadi Lake(Sarlahi), Dhaneswor Mahadev Tourism Development Area(Dhanusha), Jaleswor Temple(Mahottari), Marghar Simraungadh (Bara), Ghadiarwa Pokhari (Parsa), Chhinnamasta (Saptari).
Similarly, Jiri Sailung Tourism Trail(Dolakha), Sindhuligadhi(Sindhuli), Sunkoshi Rafting(Sindhupalchowk), Mahabhart Trail (Kavrepalanchowk), Panchpokhari(Sindhupalchowk), Kalchedi-Jhilkeswor- Devighat-Bhairavi-Dupcheswor Circuit(Nuwakot), Tamang Heritage Trail(Rasuwa), Sky Trail, Rani Jharana Cannoning Thakre (Dhading), Bishazari Tal, Someshwor Gadhi Tourism Development Madi, Patiyani Tourism Area(Chitwan), Makawanpurigadhi (Makawanpur), Nil Barahi Temple/Park(Bhaktapur), Dahachowk(Kathmandu), Nag Daha Tourism Area, Godawari Phulchowki Hiking (Lalitpur) are included as the new destination in Bagmati Province.
Chum Valley (Gorkha), Kaulepani, Ghalegaun (Lamjung), Tanahu Kalika Martyr and Peace Park, Siddha Cave(Tanahu), Mauja Homestay, Sicklesh Tourism Area (Kaski), Narphu Trail (Manang), Lomanthang Durbar and Cave Area (Mustang), Durlung Canoning, Caving and Homestay, Mahashila (Parvat), Satau-Chandimalika Area, Alamdevi(Syangja), Bhakunde- Bhairavsthan- Gajako Daha, Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve (Baglung), Daunnedevi (Nawalparasi East), Ghorepani Tourism Area (Myagdi) are included in the list to be added and promoted as the tourism areas lying in Gandaki Province.
Province No. 5
Ram Gram (Nawalparasi West), Baunnakoti Banbatika, Saina Maina Tourism Area(Rupandehi), Jashadishpur, Sagartal(Kapilvastu), Talpokhara Rambhadevi Temple (Tansen), Panini Tapobhumi (Arghakhachi), Resunga Tapobhumi, Ruru Area Bhagawati Temple Tourism Area(Gulmi), Jaljala(Rolpa), Rock Garden, Okharkot Danda, Jhimruk(Pyuthan), Bagarbaba Religious Tourism Area(Dang), Kammar Shah Majar Tourism Area(Banke), Omkareswordham Religious Tourism Area, Shiva Mandir Religious Tourism Area(Bardiya) are the places included in the list for development and promotion.
Kubhinde Daha (Salyan), Tripura Sundari Religious Tourism Area (Dolpa), Dudul Chaitya(Jumla), Limi Valley Tourism Area(Humla), Rara She-Phokshundo Trail(Mugu), Pachal Jharana(Kalikot), Khalanga Durbar Square(Jajarkot), Kotgadhi-Panchadewal-Belaspur-Mahabu Tourism Development Area(Dailekh), Jajura Daha, Gidde Danda (Surkhet), Botankot Chitri Patan Adventure Trail(Rukum West)etc have been listed as the new tourism destinations of Karnali Province.
Kolta- Budhiganga- Badhimalika Trail(Bajura), Gorakhnath Temple Trail(Bajhang), Badikedar Religious Tourism Area(Doti), Suryakot Mastadevi Tourism Area(Achham), Malikarjun(Darchula), Siddha Nath Udayadev Religious Area(Baitadi), Amargadhi-Ugratara(Dadeldhura), Rautel Jhamkeli Brahmadev Dham Religious Development Area(Kanchanpur), Banda Tal Kotihom Religious Area and Bardgoriya Mandirdham(Kailali) have also been included in 100 destinations to be further developed and promoted.
Visit Nepal 2020’s prospects and challenges
The Visit Nepal Year 2020 can be an opportunity to showcase Nepal as a unique destination offering adventure, sports, religious tourism, and other exotic socio-cultural experiences.
Nepal is one of the best holiday destinations owing to its amazing multicultural aspects, exotic natural beauty, majestic Himalayan peaks, and varied topographical features.
The Himalayan country, which is also dubbed as an amphitheater for adventure enthusiasts, had in 2018 witnessed a rise of foreign tourists with a total of 1 million 173 thousand 702 visitors, according to the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) data.
Unfortunately, these sectors’ challenges are either ignored or undervalued.
Rallies are not enough to attract tourists: Infrastructure expert
One of the major constraints demanding immediate action is the infrastructure at the airport. Though promised to be in operation in 1 year, the Gautam Buddha International Airport, Bhairahawa, Pokhara Regional International Airport are still far from completion. Due to this, most tourists are compelled to use Tribhuvan International Airport as the only year airport and only for the aviation route.
The inclusion of most of the tourism destinations of the country in the package can intensify the interest of both the domestic and international visitors. “Organizing rallies is not enough,” Thapa added, “all the travel agencies and tourism entrepreneurs should be notified about local productions.”
According to Thapa, the visitors interface the taxis once they step Nepal. Sadly, there are no luxurious taxis deemed essential to welcome 2 million visitors to the country.
Thapa lists three things as pivotal in the tourism industry: first, how can the tourist reach the destination, next, accommodation, where shall they stay and lastly, “what activities can they be involved in?” Speaking to Khabarhub he said, “There are no facilities with us, so generating the tourist-friendly environment is the main challenge now.”
Heritage maintenance impacts a lot: Culture experts
Nepal has high potentials in tourism. Most of the tourists opt for the rich cultural heritage of Nepal. However, most of the glorious historical and cultural sites are badly damaged by the 2015 earthquake. Most of the heritage sites are under reconstruction. It’s high time to think about its impact on tourist arrival.
Sudarshan Raj Tiwari, an archeologist thinks the snail-paced heritage reconstruction might impact the tourist flow.
“The loss and damage on the cultural heritage sites are most likely to have an adverse impact on the government target of getting 2 million tourists into the country in 2019,” Tiwari said while speaking to Khabarhub.
He sighed over the slow or let’s say, no progress in the reconstruction of the cultural sites like Rato Machhindranath at Bungmati.
Provided the tourists get no information about the heritage sites, their interest in the glorious culture and cultural sites may decline. So, disseminating positive information is most. Unfortunately, the stakeholders of the Visit Nepal 2020 seem unaware of such issues.
Frail diplomacy, ineffective machinery
Despite massive support from the public and the positive outlook of the media, the program itself is still unable to gain momentum due to the frail diplomacy, ineffective state machinery and lack of vision of leadership.
Minister Bhattarai’s intention might not be faulty but proved to be detrimental, on humanitarian ground, at a time when Australia was burning, being ravaged by the worst-ever forest fire the country had seen in decades with over two dozen people killed and over 12 million acres devoured and more than 5 million wildlife charred to death.
Such issues reveal the level of judgment at the diplomatic level, at the advisory level and the common sense of the incumbent minister himself.
Another serious error was notable in the Minister Bhattarai’s plan of welcoming Chinese tourists even before the corona terror was completely over.
But for the continuous positive message from few embassies US and Chinese, most of the western mission’s travel advisory’s issued to inform about their citizens willing to visit Nepal are not much positive. E.g. the travel advisory issued by the Australian government has mentioned the precautions against the theft, loot, harassment and even the possibility of the scarcity of water and foodstuffs due to frequent strikes and bands. The travel advisory issued by the New Zealand government does not fare better.
These are the examples of the worst diplomatic dealing of our missions abroad.
On the eve of the proclamation of mega-event, the Ministry of Health organized a meeting and formed a team to study the health desks to be established at the various entry points so that health hazards the diverse population of tourists might introduce can be addressed.
Ironically, the health desk at TIA, the entry point of the country, runs with insufficient staffs and poor screening device.
So, it’s wise to focus more on the infrastructure building this year and continue the tourism campaign in coming years as well.
A penny saved is a penny earned
The government made the inaugural ceremony special spending the budget of 50 million on it. Earlier, only 20 million was allocated for the program, later speculating the budget might not suffice it was made 58.5 million.
The government has allocated 610 million as the budget for Visit Nepal Year 2020.
Irrespective of meeting the target number, what one can affirm is the promotional events, the infrastructure and investment made for the promotion will surely benefit the country in the long run.