KATHMANDU, Nov 12: Announcing their manifesto for provincial and parliamentary elections, major political parties have set ambitious annual targets of bringing in three million to five million tourists in the next 10 years.
The parties have said they have set targets to increase the number of tourist arrivals considering the tourism potential of the country.
However, these targets seem overly ambitious if compared to the current flow of tourists, notwithstanding the fact that tourist arrival is breaking the record in 2017 as the country has already received 750,000 tourists in the first 10 months of the year. In 2016, the country had received only 729,550 tourists.
The manifesto of the left alliance has set the target of bringing 5 million tourists annually in upcoming 10 years. Under the title ‘Tourism: An Identity of the Country and Prosperity’, the left alliance has said that it will run promotional activities, market promotion, tourism training, and build infrastructure to meet the target of bringing 5 million tourists in 10 years.
The manifesto has further mentioned that cable car and mono-rails will be operating in major tourist destinations of the country. The left alliance that was formed comprising of two major communist parties -- CPN UML and CPN (Maoist Center) -- has also mentioned in their manifesto that it would operate a tourism university.
Likewise, Nepali Congress (NC) has set the annual target of bringing 3.2 million tourists in coming 10 years. Under the title ‘Qualitative Change in Tourism’ in its election manifesto, the NC has mentioned that in the coming 10 years, tourism sector of the country will be strengthened in such manner that it will create millions of jobs and will be established as a base of the country’s identity and prosperity.
Likewise, the manifesto of Bibeksheel Sajha Party has promised to develop tourism infrastructure using natural, cultural, and historical heritage of the country. Under the title ‘Tourism and Other Industries’ in its manifesto, the party has mentioned that it would promote the tourism sector and focus on bringing a maximum numberof tourists in the country. On the other hand, Naya Shakti party has assured to develop tourists destinations of the country to establish it as a base for economic revolution.
While all the major political parties seem competing in their manifestos to increase the number of tourists, the stakeholders of tourism sector have said that their targets are likely to be limited only in paper unless the country built infrastructure supporting the growth of tourists.
Tourism entrepreneurs said that to achieve any of these targets in reality, stable government and proper policies were needed. Vinayak Shah, general secretary and spokesperson for Hotel Association Nepal (HAN), said that the target was not a big deal if there was a proper policy in place.
“We have been witnessing such manifestos in each election, but we have never witnessed any change as promised,” said Shah, adding: “To achieve the goals, they need to first establish a stable government.”
Even the government’s target of bringing more tourists has largely fallen flat so far. Compared to the government’s target of bringing one million tourists in 2011, only 736,215 came to visit Nepal when the country was celebrating ‘Nepal Tourism Year 2011’.
Similarly Nava Raj Dahal, newly elected president of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal (TAAN) said that the government should establish a stable government and build necessary infrastructure in the tourism sector. Santa Bir Lama, president of Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), said: “If the government could fulfill just 60 percent of their promises, then the target would be achievable. We could hope but not depend on the parties’ manifestos.” Necessary infrastructure like international airport and roads should be built first, he added.