Much awaited Visit Nepal 2020, the national event that aims to bring as many as two million tourists to Nepal in 2020, is beginning right next week. The government also seems to be gearing up efforts to brand Nepal as one of the most attractive destinations of the world and is announcing schemes for the tourists. Recently, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTA) has proposed waiving the royalty for mountaineers climbing 11 mountains that include Choyu, Sarphu II, Gyalzen Peak, Pkhar Khang, Kande Himchuli, Nampa II, Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjungha main, Ganesh Himal, Putha Himchuli and Saipal. The Department of Tourism charges $1800 as expedition permit for Choyu, Dhaulagiri and Kanchenjungha, $600 for Ganesh Himal, Putha Himchuli and Saipal, $400 for Kande Himchuli and Nampa II, $250 for Sarphu II, Pokhara Khang and Gyalzen Peak. In the context that there have been complaints regarding the mountaineering fees, this decision may encourage tourists to explore our mountains while in Nepal.
Plans and programs are being announced at local and provincial levels as well. In a way, they seem to be competing to bring new schemes to attract tourists in their respective places. This is good. But as things stand, we have still not upgraded our tourism infrastructure and roads properly. To take the example of Kathmandu, the roads in the valley are still in the state of disrepair. Because of this, smooth riding has become a luxury for the people and it will be so for visiting tourists as well.
Since we still have a week’s time for Visit Nepal 2020, we urge Ministry of Tourism to focus on some key areas and start the work immediately. First the roads of Kathmandu. Of course, upgrading roads across the country is vitally important but the Kathmandu Valley must be put in priority because Kathmandu will be the first stop for tourists coming to Nepal. When the tourists see the mess in Kathmandu, they might not be encouraged to go outside of the valley. Kathmandu therefore has to be kept clean and our roads here have to be blacktopped. Second area to focus is Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA). In TIA, often visitors have to stand in long queue, for a long time, to get their immigration clearance. This process has to be made easy for the tourists. Inside TIA, a person has to wait for hours sometimes to get their baggage from the conveyor belts. At any given time, one or two conveyor belts do not seem to be working, leading to the frustrating delays in baggage claim. With rising number of new hotels opened in view of VNY 2020, hopefully accommodation will not be a big issue but most hotel premises are still not clean enough or the roads connecting them are enveloped in dusts. As VNY 2020 is approaching, it would be wise for the tourism authorities to make an inspection trip to the major destinations across the country and fix the problems without any further delays. At the end of the day, it is not VNY 2020 as an event as such that will keep tourists engaged in Nepal. What type of facilities we provide matters at the end of the day. The government should not spare any effort to ensure that every tourist who comes to Nepal will feel welcomed and return home with such experience that they will recommend their relatives and acquaintances to visit Nepal. We need to be able to make tourists feel at home in Nepal.