Even if the number of COVID-19 cases keeps increasing in the country, the federal government has taken initiative to reopen the tourism industry after months of shutdown. It is set to welcome international tourists from October 17. With a negative COVID-19 PCR test report within 72 hours before departure, the inbound travellers will not have to stay in quarantine or self-isolation upon their arrival in the country. Trekking companies and tour operators are now preparing to take tourists to different destinations. However, the visiting tourists will be required to abide by health safety and hygiene protocols set by the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) to prevent the possible spread of the virus. Since the first lockdown was imposed more than six months ago, the sensitive tourism sector has suffered a big setback. As a result, the government and the tourism businesses have incurred a colossal loss in terms of revenue.
In its bid to revive the tourism sector, the government has allowed domestic airlines, public buses, hotels, restaurants and other businesses to resume their services since September 17. Having a multiple chain effects on the overall national economy, the tourism industry's contribution to creating jobs and earning foreign exchange was significant. With a wide range of amazing tourist attractions from the scenic beauty to cultural diversity, Nepal used to host a lot of tourists from across the world. The country had to cancel the Visit Nepal 2020 due to the rapid transmission of the coronavirus pandemic. The ambitious national tourism campaign sought to host at least 2 million international tourists within 2020 and beyond.
It needs no mention that the contagion has dealt a severe blow to the global tourism. According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the global tourist arrivals went down by 65 per cent in the first six months this year. This is the unprecedented drop in the movement of international tourists. However, it does not take more time for tourism, as a resilient sector, to revive once a favourable situation emerges in tourist generating markets and host destinations. As part of its tourism recovery plan, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation launched the Tourism Recovery Task Force (TRTF-Nepal) formally in the capital the other day. Minister for Tourism, Culture and Civil Aviation Yogesh Kumar Bhattarai unveiled the joint public-private initiative on the occasion of the World Tourism Day (WTD). UNWTO has designated 2020 as the Year of Tourism and Rural Development to promote the potential of tourism to create jobs and opportunities. The theme highlights the unique role tourism can play in preserving and promoting natural and cultural heritage and curbing urban migration.
Minister Bhattarai commended the private sector for joining hands with the government for the revival of the tourism industry. The task force is expected to play a proactive role for sound and speedy recovery of the country's travel business that has remained badly affected due to the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, Minister Bhattarai also launched Desh Darshan, a domestic tourism promotion campaign, in the presence of key leaders and professionals of the tourism industry. The ministry has already instructed the NTB and other relevant agencies to work out plans to accommodate around 500,000 tourists in and around the Kathmandu Valley. Such efforts are sure to help revive the country's tourism industry.