The Country is marking "The Tourism Year 2020" with the theme of Life Time Experience. The government and private stakeholders are working hard to make the NTY a success.
In this backdrop, Deepak Raj Joshi, chief executive officer of Nepal Tourism Board, Khum Bahadur Subedi, president of Trekking Agencies' Association of Nepal (TAAN), and Binayak Shah, 1st Vice President of Hotel Association Nepal ,shared their views on different aspects of the national event at the weekly Gorkhapatra Sambad on Sunday. Excerpts:
Infrastructure major challenge: Joshi
In major tourism source market of Nepal, there is a typical and rigid image of Nepal as only an adventurous tourism destination for trekking and mountaineering activities. But when we talk about the potentiality, we have immense potentialities in other areas such as cultural heritages, wildlife and lifestyle.
Unless we can expose these hidden treasures in the international arena, we cannot take economic benefits from the tourism industry. Realising this, the overall theme of the Visit Nepal Year 2020 has been set as ‘life time experience’ in order to positioning Nepal as unique and life time valued destination.
In the preparation phase of the VNY, we are focusing on four areas which include infrastructure, policy and incentive, awareness and internal promotion, and international promotion.
On international promotion, we have been promoting Nepal in major source markets with the theme of life time experiences from last one and a half years. We have completed one round of pre-launching of VNY 2020 in various platforms, forums and fairs. In promotional activities, we are working in three fronts in the participation of NTB, the VNY secretariat and the government.
In one front, we are focusing on Business to Business (B2B) activities of private sector for establishing B2B relations by taking part in the tourism marts, sales missions and fairs.
In another front, we are focusing on consumer-focused programmes. Under this, we have signed MoU with China’s Ctrip.com, DiDi, one of the largest riding platform, Olakath of India and bus branding in London and other brand visibility and promotions in public places.
In addition to this, 250 bloggers, celebrities and media persons had been invited to promote Nepal. We are cooperating with lonely planet and trip adviser for the promotion and are soon going to BBC and CNN for the promotion. Likewise, we are focusing on digital platform. We have been active in social channels and media. Largely we are utilising various Diasporas of Nepal created in external sector including, Non-Resident Nepali and diplomatic channel of Nepal. Fourthly, we are effectively utilising the networks of Nepal. All embassies have been mobilised to promote VNY 2020. High level visit of foreign dignitaries have been promoted.
On awareness creation, in one side we are focusing on human resource development as it is service-oriented sector and on the other side we have developed small videos in social media. Last year we had given training to around 1500 human resources and this year we are going to train additional 20,000 individuals.
Regarding incentive, the private sector has introduced some discount packages which have been promoted. Hotels and other businesses are offering special packages targeting the VNY 2020. From the side of the government, some incentives have also been introduced in some adventure. Similarly, initiative has been taken to establish cooperation between different levels of government to discourage the trend of raising tourism fees independently while implementing federalism.
The major challenge to us is infrastructure. We are focusing on air connectivity and improving the condition of road. Recently, the rehabilitation of runway of Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) has been completed and two parking bays are going to be added within 15 days. With some managerial improvement, now we can handle additional six to seven international flights in the TIA from the added infrastructure. Two airlines are coming within this year. The Gautam Buddha International Airport is coming into operation from May 2020. This will provide strong base for the tourist arrival. As per our tentative calculation, additional 16 to 18 international flights need to be added to meet the target of 2 million foreign tourists. Similarly, the condition of roads connecting major tourism destinations and surrounding are not good. The government and the private sector are taking initiative to complete the maintenance work on these roads.
As per the life time experience theme, we are exploring the Kathmandu Valley, adventure and spiritual segments.
In addition, calendar events like cycling in the world’s deepest Kaligandaki Gorge and spiritual journeys are included. We are promoting things of curated and educating enterprises to sell those products.
To promote Nepal as all-time tourism destination, we are promoting culture, heritages and festivals as special products. Besides, we are also trying to sell our pleasant weather. We have good weather to the tourists living in hot weather as 80 per cent area has less than 30 degree Celsius even during the hot season. We are also focusing on Middle East targeting people of Indian and Pakistani origin and natives by increasing connectivity. We are focusing on China market for winter with the theme of ‘winter is warm’. This is the strategy to sell warm and sunny days even in winter season.
Though the target of VNY 2020 is to bring 2 million foreign tourists in a year, we are also focusing on bringing high yield quality tourists.
We are focusing our promotional activities to the segments of the high yield tourists.
The expenditure of tourism is not falling as shown in the government data. The decline in contribution of tourism revenue was only due to the leakage in various businesses through the digital payment system and unregistered services. To control it, the government should strengthen its digital smartness.
While talking about the contribution of tourism in gross domestic product (GDP), still we do not have effective reporting system of tourism contribution.
For the first time, we are maintaining tourism satellite account this year which will give the real picture of the contribution of tourism in GDP.
We need to work hard to bring quality tourists : Subedi
Preparation works for the Visit Nepal Year 2020 from both the government and the private sectors have reached the final stage.
The government itself is not the sole agent to bring tourists, so Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), and we, stakeholders, are playing our active role to make the national event a success.
NTB is playing a vital role in the publicity of the event and the government is playing the lead role. We, private sectors, also need to work more to achieve the target of VNY 2020.
The first part is publicity, and the second part is to cater better services to the tourists. We are working to bring 2 million tourists in one year, but the number may be less. So we need to work hard to bring quality tourists.
It is important to upgrade our online visa system to leave a good impression on the tourists worldwide as sending a positive message to the world is another part to make the tourism year a success.
The second important thing is luggage. Our luggage system is more harassing, the tourists have to wait for hours to receive their luggage, which gives wrong message to the world. We need to develop an easy luggage system at the Tribhuvan International Airport as soon as possible.
The biggest problem any tourist face after coming out from the airport is pollution. Now we are in the situation to provide a mask with the facilitation to the tourists. The pollution in Kathmandu is unbearable for everyone and everyone can think how it is creating problem to the tourists.
We, the stakeholders, have asked the Mayor of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) for pollution control and we are also asking the media to play an important role in pollution management.
Hotels services are sufficient for at least 2.5 million tourists, but the problem is in providing sufficient flight seats. Managing flight seats to a large number of tourists is also another problem, which cannot be addressed soon. Road travel and road safety are other problems, which we need to resolve. We have a lot of examples of tourists suffering during road travels.
The TAAN is providing training and doing its activities for the comfort of tourists but that is insufficient. Language guide is also another part of tourism, but we are lacking them here. We need to focus on 2 million tourists with the use of locally available human resources. This time, we are also focusing on the tourist destinations, for example in Sudurpaschim State, where small number of tourists reache, we are working hard to make those areas popular tourist spots.
Trekkers should take a guide compulsory when they are trekking in the area above 3,000 metres of the sea level and should travel through a registered company. Registration in a company is beneficial for the record system as well as GDP.
Self-trekking is dangerous as they can miss the route. We are producing guides every year, but they are lacking employment. So taking guide is advantageous for safety and security as well as employment.
In the past days, only private sectors were working in the tourism sector, but now the government is also working for the promotion of tourism. We are coordinating with the state governments to finalise the new trekking-destination.
Meeting 2m target is not big issue: Shah
The private sector is always together with the government and the NTB as per the concept of public private partnership for the promotion of tourism. The private sector focuses on result-oriented approach. Infrastructure and connectivity is the major challenge to bring more tourists in the country. Meeting the 2 million target is not a big thing if there was no problem of connectivity. While talking about the service of hotel, we have the capacity of providing accommodation facility to 2.5 million tourists. But there are various problems starting from airport, including in immigration, environment pollution, transportation service etc. To make tourist realise something new in VNY 2020, the government should make commitment to providing the immigration service within a short period, for example in half an hour. Currently, embassies of Nepal are also taking four days to issue visa to the tourists, it should be reduced to 24 hours. Tourists will have many options to visit, therefore, we have to focus on providing them best service.
The theme of life time experience is good. For making it result-oriented, we should be able to make yearly plan to focus on different destinations and products. We have many festivals, fairs and jatras on different time, these products can be promoted for the sources of life time experiences. In international promotion, focus should be made on digital marketing rather than on the traditional media.
Social networking sites should be used for the international promotion. Promotion of VNY in Chinese language and local languages of different provinces of India will be effective to invite more Chinese and Indian tourists. Besides, focus should be given on other types of tourism activities, including, gastronomy tourism, health tourism, sports tourism and MICE tourism.
We are now only focusing on tourists coming by air while talking about 2 million tourists. The emphasis should also be given to the tourists coming by land and the domestic tourists. Domestic tourists constitute a significant portion in business of hotels. Sources of around 60 per cent business in Pokhara and Chitwan are from domestic tourists. The surplus capacity of the hotel industry can be utilised by promoting domestic tourism. The government should resume the leave tourism schemes to the civil servants to promote domestic tourism.
The private sector is focusing on attracting quality tourists but there are many limitations to bring high yield tourists. The traffic congestion in Kathmandu, high pollution level, delay in government services, including immigration services are factors that divert high yield tourists to other competitive destinations.
The 3 per cent contribution of tourism industry in GDP is not real. Tourism sector has been making contribution of more than double of that in GDP.
The low contribution in GDP was appeared due to lack of effective reporting system.
Around 100 hotels of tourist standards are under construction after the current political changes in the country. But sustainability of the business will be questionable if the current situation of miss-management in the country continues. The hotel industry is in now cross-road, the situation of the time of internal conflict can be repeated if the situation was not improved. It will not be any surprise if hotels get converted into shopping complexes and apartments in future.
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