KATHMANDU, Feb 19: The government has put forth a plan to promote Nepal as 'Coronavirus Free Zone' to minimize the impact of the outbreak on the tourism industry.
The plan comes amid fear that the country will struggle to meet the target of welcoming 2 million tourists due to the outbreak in China with which the country shares its northern border. China is also the second-largest source market for Nepal.
Speaking at a meeting at the ministry on Tuesday, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai directed concerned agencies to prepare and disseminate visual promotional materials carrying the message 'Nepal is a Coronavirus Free Zone' in English, Chinese and Hindi languages within three days.
The message will be displayed at Nepali diplomatic missions in foreign countries, ministries, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) premises, Visit Nepal Year 2020 Secretariat, websites of travel trade entrepreneurs and their associations as well as social media pages of the government agencies and travel trade enterprises.
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 cured now and back to his normal life. Thought the county had sent sample of some suspects for lab test, all tested negative.
Despite the fact that there have been no reported cases so far, tourism has slowed down in Nepal.
Not only Chinese, many Indian and European visitors have canceled or postponed their bookings, according to tourism entrepreneurs.
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.
Speaking at Tuesday's meeting, Bhattarai asked the NTB to immediately create 12 promotion desks focusing on different tourism markets. Each desk will have one representative each from NTB, VNY Secretariat and private sector.
The desks will analyze the current situation of the market, situation of tourist arrivals and look for possibilities, prepare packages and offers with the involvement of private sector and float them in their respective markets.
Secretary of MoCTCA, Kedar Bahadur Adhikari, NTB CEO Dhananjay Regmi, National coordinator of VNY 2020 Suraj Vaidya, among other officials were present in the meeting.