By Mahima Devkota, Kathmandu, Feb. 17: Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has been trying its best to enhance tourism in the country despite challenges amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dhananjay Regmi, Chief Executive Officer of NTB, presented that the NTB has been developing local tourist places for internal tourism and building up a niche market by highlighting globally the cultural heritage sites such as Maya Devi temple and Maya Devi maternity route in Lumbini for international tourists.
“We have targeted different products for all seasons and products for all age groups. There are also geographical models of tourism development, trekking, and climbing in the Himalaya, hill stations and mid-hill cultural trails in the mountain, and developing casinos and entertainment centers in plains belts,” said NTB CEO Regmi at a press meet held on Thursday at the NTB.
We are taking a step forward to boost domestic tourism by developing a tourist niche, mainly those who reside on the border of Nepal and India. Here, our immediate plan is to lure almost 30 lakh tourists that are residing on the Nepal-India border as it is difficult to invite other international tourists owing to COVID-19 flight restrictions at present.
We are also in progress to develop a digital database as it is a priority of time with an understanding that this technology will ease to find locations as well as multiple alternatives as per the choice of various tourists. This in turn will invite many tourists to Nepal which has been decreased to 8,874 this year, he said.
CEO Regmi, however, pointed out four general problems that have obstructed the sector to achieve its full potential. The tourism sector is focused on four destination points only, lacks many touristic activities, has challenges in air and road connectivity as well as there is lacking regional tourism development and protection.
So, the projects should be focused on uplifting air connectivity, increase tourism activities and utilize mediums to enhance more investment in the sector, said Regmi.
While mentioning that there is Rs. 150 billion investment with 64 billion loans in the tourism sector, and stating that there are three lakh people directly employed and more than 15 lakh people, directly and indirectly, dependent on the tourism sector, Regmi said that the immediate plans should be made only after considering the ground reality of the most affected groups of the sector, which the government lacked while giving loans and other benefits to tourism entrepreneurs amidst the pandemic.
Those that are living in rents and cannot support any collaterals were not considered at all but they are the ones facing the full blow of pandemic, he added.
Bishesh Shrestha, a tourism entrepreneur, said that the sector is facing a grim reality of stillness and there is a long way to progress but some small efforts from the government such as ease on loans, re-application of loan on minimal interest, and flexibility on payment will ensure that the people in the lowest income strata are benefited.
Similarly, Bikram Pandey, another tourism entrepreneur, said that Nepal needs to highlight the uniqueness of the country such as the Mother Mayadevi Maternity Route. This will highlight the route, cultural aspects of motherhood in Buddhism and will attract Buddhists as well as females.