Poor infrastructure may impair Visit Nepal 2020 goal

Sabina Karki

January 10, 2020


Poor infrastructure may impair Visit Nepal 2020 goal
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KATHMANDU: With the gala event on New Year, the government of Nepal declared the formal beginning of Visit Nepal 2020 with the target of bringing 20 foreigners to Nepal.

Vidya Devi Bhandari, the President of Nepal inaugurated the mega event with a big goal amidst the function organized in Dasharath Stadium, Kathmandu. Despite the colorful programs and attempts, people are skeptical about the possibility of meeting the target owing to various reasons including the visitor’s trend, infrastructure, and poor enforcement mechanism?

The project demands much better initiative to meet the target. The tourists complain of various frustrating experiences in Nepal ranging from the poor infrastructure to the rescue and relief in case of disaster and many other things.

According to the record at the Department of Tourism, 1.097 million visited Nepal till November in 2019. Provided the data of December is added to it, the number may reach 1.2 million.

Records of the previous year show that 1.17 million visited Nepal in 2018 when the number was merely .94 million in the year 2017. In 2016 the number was .713 million.

The data show that more realistic events and more effective programs are the most to meet the target set for 2020. As the current trend takes the number 1.5 million most likely for the year 2020 hence, to add 150 thousand more in a year requires very good preparation and a perfect plan.

The project demands much better initiative to meet the target. The tourists complain of various frustrating experiences in Nepal ranging from the poor infrastructure to the rescue and relief in case of disaster and many other things.

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.

Infrastructure experts in Nepal criticize the government for not paying enough attention to the infrastructure building. Visitors come here for the culture, nature, and adventure of Nepal. Hence, experts want to draw the attention of the government towards the infrastructure.

Rallies are not enough to attract tourists: Infrastructure expert

Most of the tourists coming to Nepal prefer package programs. Package tours not only help the tourists, they include more destinations, distributing the benefits to a larger community.  However, infrastructure expert Kishor Thapa sadly asserted that the country is not prepared for that yet.

“Most of the tourists aspiring to visit Nepal expect the package tour,” said Thapa talking to Khabarhub, “however, the preparation on behalf of the tourism entrepreneur both the public and private are unable to realize and materialize it.”

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.”

He thinks it very important to fix the cheapest air route to Nepal. Thapa opines Nepal Airlines should also offer a special package for the year.

“We have started the discussion and preparation about Nepal’s potential,” Thapa clarified the purpose behind raising the concern in the issue and added, “Tourism is a business which should include quality service.”

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.

“Taken positively, the tourists can find the info about the sites under reconstruction, whereas the slow pace of reconstruction might equally defame the country,” Tiwari added. 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.

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, is operated by a few non-medical staff.

We will meet the target: Ministry of Tourism

Earlier, the government had expected to welcome 1.2 million tourists in Nepal in 2019. Taken the government data on it, Nepal should add 800 thousand more tourists this year to meet the target of 2 million.

However, the Ministry for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation esteems the target as not much challenging. The Ministry expects more tourists from India and China this year.

Appreciating the attempts from the private sector, Suresh Acharya, the information officer at the Tourism Ministry says there are fat chances for the increase of the quality tourists as both the private and government sectors are striving their best for it.

Acharya revealed the government plan of declaring 2020-2030 as the Tourism Decade.

“We have taken 2020 as the Tourism Year,” Acharya told Khabarhub, “with the foundation of the tourism promotional campaign as the backup, we have made a strategy of observing the decade as Tourism Decade.”

The government has already declared 100 places all over the country as the tourist destination and has been preparing the promotional documents for them.

Acharya told that the attractive destinations are already identified by the government, and now they are working together with the concerned local levels to add value to those places. According to him, the government in coordination with the local governments is working on promotional materials.

50 million spent in the inaugural ceremony alone!

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.

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