Nepal: Tourism entrepreneurs fear displacement as tourism campaigns to bring in more tourists are largely limited to announcements

Published On: March 11, 2024 05:45 PM NPT By: Enika Rai

KATHMANDU, March 11: Tourism entrepreneurs have alleged that the government's tendency to announce tourism campaigns for gaining popularity without making necessary plans to implement the campaign has failed to increase the number of foreign tourists visiting Nepal.

They maintain that such a tendency of government agencies involved has not helped grow their businesses. The government has so far announced programs such as the 'Brihat Lumbini Project', 'Visit Nepal and Know Nepal', 'First your country, then only abroad', 'Tourism Decade', 'Visit Nepal'. But none of these campaigns was implemented effectively, forcing tourism entrepreneurs to look for alternative businesses.

Pom Narayan Shrestha, chairman of Pokhara Tourism Council (PTC), said that the implementation aspect is weak as the government does not make necessary preparations before making announcements of such campaigns. "The government says that it will focus on tourism but does not allocate enough budgets," laments Shrestha, adding, "Nor does it effectively promote the international tourism of the country in accordance with the plan." "The government has developed a tendency not to carry out the programs mentioned in the agenda, so the tourism entrepreneurs have been hit," he further said.

The government has brought various action plans to revive tourism. It declared a tourism decade from 2023 to 2031, but even after 15 months of the start of the tourism decade, no action plan has been unveiled. A year ago, the government had declared the tourism decade as a preparatory year. However, the government has not yet announced any program, plan, and budget schedule even after three months of the second year. This delay has left tourism professionals frustrated.

Two international airports have been added in the last few years. While the country's second international airport, Gautam Buddha International Airport (GBIA), came into operation in 2078 BS, the Pokhara Regional International Airport, also known as the third international airport, came into operation last year. However, tourism entrepreneurs, who were initially optimistic about the construction and operation of these airports, have been disappointed as they have not been able to facilitate international flights for years. The construction of the GBIA boosted the enthusiasm of the tourism business and entrepreneurs of this region, which had been halted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The government built an international airport, but neither the entrepreneurs nor the government could take advantage of it. As the government has not been able to expand air 'connectivity' with any country, entrepreneurs who made additional investment in the hope of more tourist arrivals have been hit hard.

The entrepreneurs of Chitwan and Bhairahawa issued a statement saying that they could not repay the loan taken from the bank to run their business. They have discussed with the government several times with demands such as paying off the loan taken from the bank and expanding international air connectivity through diplomatic initiatives and starting flights. President of Hotel Association Nepal, Binayak Shah, said that the day has come when the entrepreneurs will flee due to the non-existence of international flights. Tourism entrepreneurs of cities like Chitwan, Bhairahawa, Lumbini, and Pokhara, who have invested billions in the potential of the airport, are saying that they have become paranoid as they could not pay their bank loans. According to tourism entrepreneurs, the government's action plans have not been completed on time and the government's incompetence has led to their displacement from the businesses.

The tourism sector enables trade, foreign exchange earnings, connectivity, economic growth, and job creation, improvement of living standards, poverty reduction, livelihood, and prosperity for local communities living in remote areas. In geographically diverse Nepal, tourists can experience mountains, hills, and plains in a very short time. Similarly, Nepal is a multilingual and diverse cultural country with more than 125 castes and more than 123 languages. About 200 million people from China and 100 million from India leave the country to travel every year. Entrepreneurs say that if only two or three percent of these tourists can be brought to Nepal, it will be enough for Nepal's tourism sector.


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