Thursday, 9 December, 2021

Nature For Tourism, Tourism For Nature!


Rakshya Khanal

Now that we have stepped onto 2020, the first thing that triggers every Nepali mind is “Visit Nepal 2020”. The concept of tourism, especially in Nepal, has always been attached with our hospitality, our projection of culture more than a mere source of economy. Giving continuity to our success stories and accepting the weaknesses behind failures, we are moving to make this year a success year for tourism. After Nepal Tourism Year 2011, Visit Lumbini Year 2012, and Everest Diamond Jubilee 2013, Nepal is in preparation to celebrate Tourism Year 2020 where it envisions bringing more than two million tourists.
The success of tourism has made it possible for Nepal to enlist itself as one of the best tourist destinations. Hospitality of the Nepalis has always been the most attractive aspect and this year would be no exception. It is an inevitable fact that Nepal possesses a lot of potential for growth and expansion of tourism as it is blessed with breathtaking nature and natural resources. They even don’t need to be modified to create a value. Nature is self-sufficient in creating its own value. External tourists, staying in their home country, have understood this; we have not.
To give shape to our vision, we need instruments - either physical or psychological. Are we well equipped to serve two million internal and external tourists? Before entering into availability of materials for tourists, we need to make sure if its material satisfaction or mental satisfaction that the tourists seek? Is it construction of concrete building or preservation of cultural and natural heritages that we need to concentrate on?
Well, infrastructural development that is ongoing in the country is in a way praiseworthy. In comparison to previous years, a lot of developmental works are ongoing to make 2020 successful. But, the most important point we are missing out from all these discussions in 2020 is Protection during Development. Development is always conceived with positive connotation and thus it is not supposed to bring any negative consequences, especially when it comes to identity. Have we protected our identity adequately? Have we thought of consequences of letting natural and cultural heritages go?

Tourism in Nepal is not just about visit, food and culture. Since Nepal is a hub for foreign investment, this is also a way for Nepal to give the visitors an opportunity for “space hunt” to invest here. Foreign investment serves as a catalyst for economic and social development. The state, through various mediums, has always projected its vision for attracting foreign investment and this year can be a year of giving shape to numerous visions. For this, a profound market research must be conducted regarding the possibilities and prospects of tourism along with space for foreign investment.
The state, therefore, cannot pull its hand from investing in technology transfer to make oneself equipped and ready for this space hunt. As our heritage needs this, most of the investment must be directed towards promoting development along with protection of our natural and cultural heritages. Before making tourism plans and strategies either by the state, local level government or other stakeholders of tourism industry, it has to be understood that mere availability of physical materials does no more satisfy tourists. Especially, the external tourists have no hunger of our buildings and concrete roads. All that they seek is unique and peculiar character of the state. And for Nepal, its nature and culture hold a special significance. So, this should be the focal point of the state, individuals and other stakeholders.
Apart from culture and identity, international airport should be kept in the priority list for 2020. For now, the only international airport we have is Tribhuvan International Airport which is being the subject of criticism for poor sanitation, health and safety. Many tourists, especially external ones, have so much to complain about the sanitation in airport. The state should ensure that tourists do not judge Nepal for its sanitation and infrastructure because that’s not what they come for. In addition, if the government becomes able to complete Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa before 2020 with all the standards duly met, it would increase the number of tourists.
Since tourism is labour intensive and it has little to do with giant technologies, the state should empower human resources and their initiatives. The importance of quality service over quantity has to be inculcated in the mind of every human being and the enterprises should act accordingly. The labour shall be provided with required training in their own area of expertise. Tourism entrepreneurs should be provided with adequate opportunities for their expansion that can ultimately accelerate economic growth of the nation.
As a concerned citizen of the state, to note the impacts of promotion and marketing is another responsibility. Marketing, an underestimated concept in hospitality industry, can create a greater impact on psychology and preparation of tourists either external or internal. Tourism revolves around two major concepts, first the informed knowledge and second, the informed choice. A well-researched advertisement about tourism prospects and an attractive marketing of availability of natural and artificial beauty of Nepal is a new strategy to be adopted. Being provided with informed choice is not just the facility but also the matter of right. It’s the responsibility of the state agencies to ensure that all the required information is well disseminated through any means, for instance, Internet, social media or even newspapers along with the declaration of main attraction areas.
To make sure that tourists are not left with confusion about the destinations to visit and moments to enjoy, the state shouldn’t skip basics of tourism in its to do list, for instance, attraction, accessibility, amenities and accommodation.
Security of life and property is another main concern of tourists all around the globe. Before declaring any area as a major tourist destination, the government should be clear in itself about the security status of that area. This is a vital issue as security leaves a greater impression on tourists during and after their visit. Tourism is not a one-time service business; the long-term vision of tourism is to attract tourists over and over and protect the identity of Nepal as one of the best destinations in the world.
Nature is something that has its own rule of flourishing. Coming back to state responsibility, the state shall now redirect its concentration on preservation of natural and cultural heritages rather than creation of something new because old entities always possess a value. If there is anything that is still compelling to protect our culture, it’s the heritage. They are the evidence of our existence, our being and our civilization. Heritage possesses a capability of enhancing the history that it carries. All our existence now is the product of history, and the existence of future generations would be the history that we preserve. Now that local level governments are also empowered to make laws, policies and strategies for promotion of tourism, they have an obligation to develop new policies consistent with main laws to ensure the growth and expansion of that level.
And achieving the end of Tourism Year 2020 is possible only with collaborative effort of individuals, local level government, stakeholders and the state. In a race of protecting nature and promoting culture for tourism, the state should not miss the point that it has an obligation of protecting the cultural and natural heritages not just to promote tourism but to ensure sustainable development through tourism.
Khanal is an LLB student