Tourism is undoubtedly one of the world’s key sectors contributing to creating jobs and livelihoods for millions of people in both developing and developed countries. This multi-faceted industry is said to support one in 10 jobs and offer livelihoods for a large number of people worldwide. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), tourism is the third-largest export category after fuels and chemicals. In 2019, tourism accounted for seven per cent of global trade. Many nations across the world have utilised tourism as a vehicle for inclusive and sustainable development as its role in advancing prosperity is vital. However, being a very susceptible industry, tourism has suffered an unprecedented setback across the world after the outbreak of COVID-19 about 21 months ago.
Most countries were forced to adopt numerous harsh measures, including lockdowns, flight restrictions and closure of borders, to contain the transmission of the killer viral disease. Such curbs and a sense of fear created among the populace by the pandemic brought global tourism to a grinding halt. Many tourist destinations, including Nepal, have lost incomes from tourism considerably. Tens of thousands of people engaged with tourism have lost their jobs and livelihoods in our country alone. The emergence of the current global public health emergency made the then government to cancel Visit Nepal Year-2020. Through that national tourism campaign, the country had aimed at taking the tourism sector to a newer height by bringing in two million international tourists by the end of 2020.
Plans had also been on cards to build additional infrastructures to support the tourism industry to grow. Two more international airports, one each in Pokhara and Lumbini, have now been built. These airports are expected to be instrumental in enhancing Nepal’s air connectivity with many tourist generating markets at regional and global levels. With the announcement of the VNY-2020, many investors from home and abroad had begun showing their interest in investing in a myriad of tourism-related enterprises such as hotels and resorts. But the outbreak of COVID-19 dampened their hopes. However, the pandemic now seems to be subsiding gradually worldwide with the vaccination drive going on successfully. As of now, nearly 28 per cent of the country’s population has been vaccinated against the contagion.
With the improved COVID-19 situation, the Government of Nepal has recently resumed issuing an on-arrival visa to foreign tourists and announced the reopening of all the tourist destinations, heritage sites, temples, shrines and museums. It has also relaxed the provision of quarantine for tourists. Besides, it has reopened borders with India. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has reiterated his pledge to support the tourism sector by building up infrastructure, identifying new tourism products, and facilitating the private sector to recover from the damage caused by the pandemic. In his message delivered on the occasion of the World Tourism Day on Monday, PM Deuba said that the government would collaborate with the private sector to develop Nepal into a safe and attractive tourist destination. Each year, September 27th is marked as the World Tourism Day. With the theme of ‘Tourism for Inclusive Growth’, this year’s World Tourism Day was observed worldwide. This occasion has brought a lot of optimism and hope among tourism professionals in Nepal as well. They are quite confident that the tourism sector will revive from this autumn.