Despite having enormous growth potential, Nepal’s tourism industry has not grown in leaps and bounds. A lack of proper planning for infrastructure building, product development, promotion and marketing is one of the main reasons for this. Because of her varied topography and climatic conditions, the country has incomparable attractions to offer for tourists falling into different age-groups with diverse tastes and interests. The unequalled natural beauty, abundant biodiversity and exceptional cultural variations are some of the key tourist attractions the nation possesses. But stakeholders such as policy-makers, the national tourism organisations and tourism entrepreneurs seem to have failed to come up with effective plans and strategies to give a boost to this ‘smoke-less’ industry in the absence of required facts and figures. Although the country's tourism history has surpassed more than seven decades, not much focus has been laid on research and development. Without embracing new knowledge and practices, tourism, as a susceptible sector, can hardly flourish.
In the post-COVID scenario, there is a tougher competition among tourist destinations from across the world to entice international travellers. Global tourism had come to a grinding halt in 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, with an unprecedented fall in international tourist arrivals as well as their spending trend owing to restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the deadly viral disease. However, the situation has now changed for the better following the subsiding of COVID-19 infections and deaths significantly worldwide. Many countries have already witnessed a revival in their tourism business. Since the beginning of 2022, the status of tourism in Nepal, too, has begun improving gradually. The country played host to more than 600,000 foreign tourists last year. The tourism revival trend has continued and the nation has received a total of 128,329 international visitors in the two months this year.
The country is sure to host many more tourists during this spring as international airlines flying to and from Kathmandu, and local tour operators have got encouraging bookings. Another notable aspect is that China has lately listed Nepal as one of its outbound tourist destinations. With the resumption of services by different airlines between Kathmandu and various Chinese cities, this Himalayan nation is expected to see a good inflow of travellers from the northern neighbour. However, Nepal now needs to make sweeping efforts aiming at creating new products and upgrading the existing facilities and in order to attract more prospective visitors.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has realised the need for factual real-time data and indicators in order to help design result-oriented plans and programmes to boost the tourism industry. Inaugurating the 'UNWTO Regional Workshop of Measuring Tourism: Better data for better tourism in Asia and the Pacific' in Kathmandu on Wednesday, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Sudan Kirati emphasised the need for conducting continuous research on tourism products, identification of new tourist destinations and increment of investment in tourism infrastructure. Jointly organised by the United Nations World Tourism Orgnaisation (UNWTO), the MoCTCA and Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), the three-day workshop is being attended by representatives from about 35 countries in the Asia and the Pacific Region. Nepal has started implementing the tourism satellite account system with the support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to streamline and mine data through integrated and reliable sources. In dearth of proper statistical base, no tourism development plans and strategies can perform in a desired manner. So all works in this sector should start on foundation of reliable data.