Gyanendra Dhar Pradhananga
The beginning of this calendar year has seen the commencement of Visit Nepal Year (VNY) 2020 which is the third and latest in the series of Visit Nepal Year and Nepal Tourism Year campaigns. The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation had initially planned to start tourism year some two and half years ago in FY 2017/18 but the plan had to be postponed due to delay in the construction and upgrading of roads, reconstruction and renovation of historical monuments of art and architecture, maintenance and upgrading of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) and construction of
Gautam Buddha International Airport and Pokhara Regional International Airport.
Following the footsteps of other countries to promote their respective tourism, Nepal first declared Visit Nepal Year in 1998 with the marketing slogan, “ A World of its Own” in order to enhance the image of Nepal as a special destination for the visitors. This was subsequently followed by Nepal Tourism Year 2011 with the motto, “Together for Tourism” implying that all stakeholders have to do what they reasonably can to support the campaign. The slogan of the current VNY 2020 is aptly “Lifetime Experiences”, the objective of which is to make tourists’ visit to Nepal an unforgettable memory for a lifetime as Nepal has a number of cultural and natural attractions that must be experienced by tourists at least once in their lifetime.
A lot of promotional activities are being carried out at the moment both inside and outside to put Nepal’s tourism in the global spotlight. As a result, there is a great deal of optimism among government representatives, tourism entrepreneurs, the public and members of the civil society that more tourists would come if conditions are made favourable towards this end.
Thanks to the huge media campaign both internally and internationally and the official declaration of 2020 as VNY, we are hoping and expecting a huge influx of tourists into Nepal this year. The country’s tradition of treating tourists as guests is unique to our culture and arguably unrivalled in the world. This has been the case more so this year when visitors are being welcomed irrespective of where they come from and which route they take in to visit our country.
The target set for VNY 2020 is increase annual international tourist arrivals to two million with a targeted average daily spending of $ 75 per tourist to earn NRS two hundred billion by the end of this year. This isn’t surprising with tourism thriving more than ever after the 2015 earthquake. According to the Department of Immigration, 969287 international visitors came by air and 203785 overland making a total of 1.17 million arrivals in 2018. Achieving one million milestone has been the goal for about two decades.
Hence, this has instilled a great deal of confidence among tourism stakeholders that this has prepared a sound and solid platform for achieving this ambitious target.
The good thing about VNY 2020 is that it isn’t just stakeholders but the whole nation and the people are enthusiastic about it and all stakeholders are doing what they can to create a favourable atmosphere to attract as many tourists as possible within a short span of one year. And contrary to the normal pattern, it is not just overseas tourists from USA and UK who are visiting as usual but tourists from neighbouring countries-India, China, Thailand and Sri Lanka-that are responding to media campaigns. Tourism entrepreneurs on their part have left no stone unturned to create and develop more tourist infrastructure in terms of resorts, hotel expansion drive and the like. Nepal has currently 13 four-star hotels and 15 five-star hotels that are expected to be many more in days to come.
One of the main objectives of VNY 2020 is to promote those tourist destinations that haven’t been promoted thus far. Most of the tourists coming to Nepal have been visiting Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara and Chitwan as a triangular tourist destination. There is another triangular tourist destination that connects Pokhara to Lumbini and Janakpur but of no less importance is the identification of other destinations to make tourists aware of other equally attractive areas of the country. The government has introduced 100 such destinations from all over the country for the VNY 2020 campaign
which are going to be well equipped with transportation, logistics and other basic fundamentals with a view to lengthen the average stay of the tourists.
Another encouraging facet of VNY 2020 is that things have been made much more nicer than what they were in the past. Because majority of tourists visiting Nepal enter through TIA, a huge statue of Lord Buddha and several other things signifying unique Nepalese culture have been kept on display to help tourists understand Nepal as the birthplace of Lord Buddha and promote Nepal’s tourism. Additionally, both passengers and airlines are experiencing better facilities due to recent reform measures that have focussed of safety, security and facility.
Two main challenges confronting the international airport, however, are ever increasing air traffic movements and very limited space and infrastructure. It is also true that despite the government promising full support to the campaign, sufficient funds haven’t been allocated for full scale promotion and product development. What is more, the government delayed disbursing the funds, adversely affecting marketing and promotional activities. Under the circumstances, many of us are sceptical as to whether the target of this much-hyped VNY 2020 will be met by the end of this year.
Indeed, the target of two million tourists arrivals which is almost 100 percent increase compared to 2018 and 2019 may or may not be achieved for whatever reasons, some of which may even be beyond our control. The sudden outbreak of coronavirus in China, for example, is something that wasn’t expected even by the Chinese, let alone anybody else.
Nor is it reasonable to assert from this that the momentum of the campaign would now stop and the target of two million visitors won’t be achieved by the end of the year because one source market suffers due to coronavirus outbreak.
The most important issue in tourism isn’t just to meet the targeted number but more importantly, to make sure that this mega campaign of ours becomes a platform for sustainable tourism that benefits tourism industry in the long run. No tourism becomes sustainable unless and until we take care of both cultural and natural resources we have.
The resources that we have are for the good of both the hosts and the visitors, for the enjoyment of the present and the future generations. Hence, it’s the responsibility of stakeholders and all concerned to make tourism beneficial for indefinite years ahead by striking a balance between demand for or needs of and the supply and availability of resources both in the short and long run.
(The author is a former advisor to Bhaktapur Municipality and an emeritus professor of Economics, Tribhuvan University.)
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