KATHMANDU, May 28: Tourism is a priority sector of the government. But outcomes of the sector in the current year have been below expectations.
The Economic Survey FY 2018/19 unveiled on Monday shows that per capita spending and average length of stay of foreign tourists fell further in 2018, painting a gloomy picture for tourism. According to the survey published by the Ministry of Finance, length of stay of foreign tourists averaged 12.4 days in 2018 as of mid-March, down from 12.6 days a year earlier, while their average daily spending plunged to US$ 44 from last year's $54.
Drop in key indicators of tourism like length of stay and average spending despite surge in tourist footfalls have left economists worrying. Stakeholders of the industry point out pollution and lack of quality infrastructure in the country as the major factors affecting stay and spending of foreign tourists.
“Polluted and incomplete roads, and poor road network is one of the major reasons behind low average stay of foreign tourists," Binayak Shah, the first vice-president of Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN), otld Republica.
Shah also said that there is a need to take tourism activities outside Kathmandu Valley, Pokhara, Chitwan and Lumbini. "As tourists stay longer when they go on trekking, we should also focus on trekking tourism," suggested Shah.
Citing poor connectivity as one of the reasons plaguing the country's tourism industry, Shah said expensive air tickets due to closure of Jet Airways could affect Nepal's target of welcoming two million tourists in 2020 which the country is observing as Visit Nepal Year. "It is time we look beyond 2020 now," he added.
Some say the government should focus on quality over quantity to reap more benefits from tourism. Posh Raj Pandey, the chairman of South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment, said Nepal should focus on bringing quality tourists rather than prioritizing on numbers. "We can learn from Bhutan. As the tariff for tourist is high there, only high-end tourists can afford to visit the country," he said. "Nepal should also promote high-end tourism.”
Commenting on Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign, Pandey said that the government should also focus on bringing campaigns such as 'Agriculture Year', 'Industry and Manufacturing Year' as they have huge contribution to our economy than the tourism sector.
Shah of HAN said that the government should not only work on bringing huge number of tourists in 2020, but also set long-term sustainability goals.