KATHMANDU, Mar 1: The government has announced to cancel all promotional activities related to the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign in foreign countries. The decision comes in the wake of the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the global and the risk of transmission through travelers.
“We have decided to cancel all promotional programs for the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign abroad due to the outbreak of coronavirus,” Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai told Republica.
“All such promotional campaigns and events will be cancelled until the situation improves. We will now focus on domestic tourism and promotion,” said Bhattarai. “Our priority will be in promoting domestic tourism to offset any adverse impact from the global slowdown of tourism,” added Minister Bhattarai.
New cases of coronavirus shows no signs of abetting with more than 2,900 casualties and more than 85,000 people infected across the globe. The spread of the virus has alarmed the tourism industry which was buoyed by the VNY2020. Bookings have been cancelled in most of the hotels.
With a target to welcome 2 million tourists, the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign kicked off in January amid much fanfare following months of preparation. However, the outbreak of coronavirus in China has dealt a blow to the mega tourism campaign not only because the arrival of Chinese tourists has slumped but also because many international visitors are avoiding their holidays in Asia. Visitors from China are the second biggest contributor to Nepal’s tourism industry.
Minister Bhattarai, however, said that the government will not immediately cancel the VNY2020.
He said that only the focus has shifted to domestic tourism.
Earlier this month, the government had put forth a plan to promote Nepal as ‘coronavirus-free zone’ to minimize the impact of the outbreak on the tourism industry. The decision taken in haste when there were warnings that Nepal stilled posed high risk from coronavirus was met with widespread criticisms. World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus recently made a statement saying, “No country should assume it won’t get cases, which would be a fatal mistake, quite literally.”
Minister Bhattarai had directed the tourism department to search for alternative markets to fulfill the gap created by the decrease in Chinese tourists.
The tourism industry of Nepal has been hit hard by the fear of coronavirus as the number of international tourists slumped in the first two months of the VNY2020. Immigration officials say that the number of tourists from China has dropped drastically in February even though the first month of 2020 had recorded 2% growth in tourist arrivals. Minister Bhattarai has already directed Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) to focus on alternative markets to make up for the loss emanating from the coronavirus outbreak.
Only one case of coronavirus has been confirmed in Nepal. A Nepali student, who had returned from China, tested positive for coronavirus. However, he is now cured and back to his normal life. Thought the county had sent samples of some suspects for lab tests, all of them tested negative. “Nepal being a neighboring country of China is likely to be avoided by tourists,” said Sumit Kumar Agarwal, vice chairman of MS Group that runs the hotel brand Marriott, adding, “Not only Chinese but tourists of other countries have either postponed or cancelled their hotel bookings.”