Visit Nepal 2020 is going to gain fair amount of global attention. But will we be able to brand it internationally?
Government has announced Visit Nepal 2020 with the objective of bringing in two million tourists in the country. This is not a far-fetched dream since Nepal ranked as one of the best destinations in the world to visit in Lonely Planet’s annual Best in Travel list 2017.
Beautiful natural surroundings, cultural and climatic diversity, countless ethnic groups with their distinct art and religions, vast traditional showcases and heritage and temples make Nepal the best tourist destination. Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha and Mt Everest, the highest peak in the world, are Nepal’s main attractions. Thus Visit Nepal 2020 is going to gain fair amount of global attention. But will we be able to brand it internationally? Will we be able to bring in as many tourists as expected?
We won’t, if we limit the initiative to announcing Visit Nepal year. We must work hard to transform our dream into reality.
Nepal received global attention during the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi–Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Summit last month. And it was the right occasion for Nepal to draw global attention on tourism. But Nepal could not do much except decorating roads and pavements just to show to the visitors. The government spent huge amount of money on temporary fixings.
We have been doing this on every such occasion—including during the 18th SAARC Summit in 2014. Nepal has failed to use regional forums like BIMSTEC and SAARC to promote tourism, even when it has hosted such summits.
We could have done a lot to introduce new destinations for one of the main focuses of the summit was tourism development. The government hosted retreat to the top dignitaries at the same hotel where the summit was held. The planned retreat at Gokarna Resort had to be cancelled at the last minute because the road to that hotel was in complete mess. It was a great shame. This shows how our government fails even to do the basic things.
And yet our government wants us to believe in the idea of ‘Prosperous Nepal, Happy Nepali.’ Government’s commitment to prosperity might be limited to slogan, if we cannot change the basic things.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Pashupatinath Temple and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena and President of Myanmar Win Myint paid visit to Lumbini on the sidelines of the Summit. This was meaningful visit. It not only enhanced our global image, but also strengthened religious tourism prospects. If the government of Nepal had organized a retreat in Lumbini, for example, it would have helped a lot in tourism promotion.
Despite spending billions for hosting this mega-summit, Nepal failed to promote Nepal ‘as a must visit’ place during the BIMSTEC Summit.
We have only around one year and three months to year 2020. But the government does not seem to have done necessary preparations for making ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ a success.
We have not been able to make civil aviation service effective enough. A number of international visitors get stranded at Kathmandu airport for hours just because of minor technical problems. In addition to this, flights hold on sky for longer period as the airport has a single runway and no instrument landing system is available. If the government is really serious about luring more tourists it should work on making our sky safe, for there is an impression that our skies are unsafe.
Those who experienced difficulties while in Nepal won’t give a good message back home. This does not encourage the international visitors to come to Nepal. Generally, a tourist recommends as many as five others to visit the place they have visited. But they won’t if the few visitors who visit Nepal have bad impression about Nepal.
Things to do
Therefore, it is important to gear up campaign to make our hospitality industry remarkable. We cannot expect more tourists in the upcoming days if we fail to mange what we already have.
We are witnessing that Kathmandu streets become terribly dusty in the dry months and terribly muddy in the rainy months. This is not what the international visitors come to see in Nepal.
In the pretext of providing service and facilities to the tourists, travel agencies and hoteliers extract a lot of money from them. We cannot attract more tourists if we only think about extracting maximum profits all the time.
Tourists come to visit Nepal to experience cultural diversities of various ethnic, tribal and social groups. They come to participate in festivals and celebrations experience both Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
Unique diversity, natural beauty, Himalayan views, cultural sites from rural area to urban cities are our additional attractions. We need to think beyond the existing tourism products that we have at the moment. Introducing and exploring new destinations is essential.
Everybody likes clean environment and wants to breathe in clean air. We have to work together to make our roads clean. Let’s start working from now if we want to make ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ a success story.