Ballav Dahal In its bid to help the government in making the upcoming national tourism campaign - Visit Nepal Year 2020 (VNY 2020) - a success, trekking agencies in Nepal have come up with a plan to double the number of foreign trekkers by 2020. Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN), an umbrella association of trekking companies in the country, has urged all of its member agencies to try their best to bring in at least 800,000 foreign trekkers to the country by 2020. “We have requested all the TAAN members to make dedicated efforts to draw two million international tourists, including 800,000 trekkers during VNY 2020,” said Khum Bahadur Subedi, president of TAAN.
An estimated 400,000 foreign trekkers explore different trekking trails in Nepal annually. Subedi said that the association would join hands with various organisations, including Nepali diplomatic missions abroad, to materialise the plan. “For this, we are working out plans to promote VNY 2020 in almost two dozen countries across the world,” said Subedi. According to him, the association is in the process of carrying out the promotional programmes in India, China, the United States of America, Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Canada, Qatar, Bangladesh, Germany, Belgium, South Korea, Switzerland, Denmark, The Netherlands, Portugal, Australia and Bhutan in 2019-20. Most of these countries are important tourist source markets for Nepal.
Meanwhile, the association has also asked its members to offer 20 per cent discount on all the trekking packages to trekkers in 2020. “We hope that trekkers will take this discount as an incentive to visit Nepal,” he observed. Besides, TAAN aims to discover various areas in order to develop new trekking trails in the country. “We will work together with the local governments to find the uncharted places and promote those areas that have yet to be promoted internationally,” he added. The association has planned to highlight unexplored areas from Ilam and Taplejung in the east to Api Saipal in the west.
TAAN is also all set to train about 4,000 persons, including trekking agents and employees, on digital marketing, writing blog contents and office management. Tourism is one of the major sectors contributing to foreign exchange earnings and job creation. Despite this, the tourism sector has yet to be recognised as a national industry. “The government now must declare the tourism industry as a national industry keeping in view its contribution to the national economy,” he said. Talking about the not-so-good tourism infrastructure, he said that the relevant authorities must intensify the process o f infrastructure development. “We have requested the government to launch an online visa system and hassle-free luggage delivery service at the airport.”
The rising level of air pollution in the Kathmandu Valley has been a matter of serious concern. The authorities need to take prompt measures to contain pollution. Improving the valley’s traffic management system is also equally urgent. “As the nation is marking such a tourism campaign, the problem of traffic congestion must be addressed,” he said. Dwelling on a shortage of domestic flights to the mountain region, he asked airlines to increase their flights. He also called on the government to have a mandatory provision for each of foreign trekkers to go on trekking through registered trekking companies. “The new policy must require trekkers visiting the areas higher than 3,000 metres above sea level to hire an assistant. This will not only help ensure safety and security of tourists but will also create additional jobs for the unemployed youths,” he said.
Referring to the issue of restricted areas, he suggested that the government should introduce a new policy to issue trekking permit even to a solo trekker willing to visit such places. Until now, a team comprising of at least two persons can alone get the permit. Each of them has to pay US$ 500 as permit fees for 10 days. “The government should also reduce the permit fees for the restricted areas by 50 per cent in order to encourage more trekkers to visit such areas,” he said. Talking about tax-related problems facing the trekking sector, he asked the government to make the taxation system business-friendly.
TAAN is also going to organise an Adventure Travel Mart in August 2020 to support VNY 2020. “We have taken VNY 2020 as a challenge as well as an opportunity. We are optimistic that the national campaign will help us take the tourism industry to newer heights,” he said.