Saturday, 6 March, 2021
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OPINION

A Novel Initiative To Boost Tourism



BMD

Like global tourism, the tourism industry in Nepal that has gone through the most difficult situation in history since the outbreak of COVID-19 is now scrambling to recover. Owing to the pandemic, the country has seen a remarkable fall in international tourist arrivals and tourism receipts. As the entire tourism activities have come to a halt, a lot of people involved in this sector have become jobless. Tourism entrepreneurs are fearful that they might lose their huge investment as the uncertain situation persists.
However, a slight drop in the number of coronavirus infections and resultant deaths, and a fresh launch of the vaccination drive against the contagion in many nations have brought some rays of hope to tourism stakeholders. But looking at the current global scenario, this sensitive sector is unlikely to revive at a full scale in the near future. A survey conducted by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has hinted that the revival of the tourism industry would begin from 2021 after the resurgence of domestic demand.
Global tour operators, airlines, other hospitality service providers and potential international travellers are still in a 'wait and see' mode, with the continuation of the transmission of the deadly virus.
Even amidst such a situation, domestic tourism in Nepal has begun reviving steadily over the past few months. Some of the major tourist destinations like Pokhara, Chitwan and Lumbini have now been hosting a few domestic visitors. This trend has become quite encouraging as tourism entrepreneurs are now eager to welcome foreign tourists.
Although the government declared the country open for tourists some months ago, no significant numbers of foreign tourists have yet to come here. Visa-related issues and the mandatory provision of quarantine for foreign tourists are some of the reasons behind their reluctance to travel to the country.
Meanwhile, tourism entrepreneurs and local governments of Nepalgunj and Pokhara have joined hands to give a boost to the ailing tourism industry. At the initiative of Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA), charter flights between Nepalgunj and Pokhara have started since February 20. Sita Air, a private domestic airline, has also become a part of the new plan. For the time being, the airline operates two flights a week between these two cities.
The opening flight to Pokhara from Nepalgunj had a 18-member team, including Mayor of Nepalgunj Sub-Metropolitan City Dhawal Shumsher Rana and tourism entrepreneurs from Banke and Bardiya. The team was received by Mayor of Pokhara Metropolitan City Man Bahadur GC and local travel trade leaders. Tourism entrepreneurs from Banke had been lobbying with the government for having the air connectivity with Pokhara since long.
The team was in Pokhara to explore the beautiful 'Lake City' for prospective tourists from Banke, Bardiya and other parts of western Nepal. They are also planning to develop tour packages for Indian adventurers, nature lovers and pilgrims to visit Pokhara, Muktinath and numerous other tourist spots located in the Gandaki Province. They also want to establish air links between Nepalgunj and New Delhi of India to attract more tourists from the southern neighbour.
Tourism entrepreneurs from Pokhara are also in the process of observing various tourist attractions found in western Nepal. Many domestic as well as foreign tourists visiting Pokhara may extend their trips to different tourist spots located in the western hilly and Terai districts. Other destinations such as Hetauda, Janakpur, Dharan and Ilam should also learn from the initiative taken by Nepalgunj and Pokhara to promote domestic tourism. 

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