Autumn will be encouraging for Nepal’s tourism: Shahi
By Ballav Dahal ---
As the peak autumn tourist season is approaching, Nepal’s travel trade entrepreneurs are now optimistic that the upcoming autumn will remain encouraging for them to host more tourists.
“Looking at tour bookings, we are hopeful that the tourism business will revive during the season. We have heard that airlines and hotels have also recorded good bookings,” said Amar Bahadur Shahi, the managing director of Raaika Tours & Treks (P) Limited.
Nepal’s tourism sector has been reeling under problems after the devastating earthquakes of 2015. However, the sensitive industry has started showing some signs of recovery with the lifting of the Indian blockade one and a half years ago.
“Despite all such problems, the country’s international image as a tourist destination is being enhanced. Marred by political instability for a long period, the nation is now heading towards stability as local unit elections have been held in six provinces,” said Shahi.
Such polls are scheduled for September 18 in the remaining Province No. 2. The provincial and federal elections are also going to be held within few months.
Shahi, who is also the general secretary of the Nepal Association of Tour Operators (NATO), said that the fear of earthquakes was getting out of the minds of prospective tourists. “Tourists as well as other stakeholders have begun to forget the panic of the 2015 earthquakes.”
He said the private sector also deserved credit for the current favourable tourism scenario. “Even when the country’s tourism industry was in the doldrums, the private sector kept on making efforts to promote their businesses. They continued to take part in travel fairs. That is paying off now,” he said.
According to veteran tour operator Shahi, the country has started to see more Free International Travellers (FITs) due to social media.
In recent years, the hotel industry has recorded a significant growth in investment. Hoteliers are also marketing their properties abroad.
Moreover, the country has also good air connectivity with several tourist generating markets at regional and international levels. Kathmandu has been linked to several Chinese cities by air. Similarly, the nation has better air connectivity with India. The two giant immediate neighbours are the major tourist source markets for us.
“It is good news for us that Korean Air is going to increase its flights to four per week from November. This will be helpful for Nepal to welcome more Korean tourists,” he said.
As a tour operator focusing on the Korean market, he said that Nepal has been a fascinating destination for Korean holidaymakers. “Even after the earthquakes, they (Korean tourists) continued to come here as they love the country of natural beauty and cultural diversity.”
Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and other Buddhist sites are an additional attraction for Koreans.
Shahi, who has been lobbying hard for quality tourism, said that Nepal must go for quality tourists in the long-run. “We should not focus only on the number.”
He suggested that Nepali tour operators should carry out marketing and promotion activities directly in the traditional and potential tourist source markets. “We cannot reap much benefit from tourism if we continue to bring in foreign tourists through Indian agents,” he said.
He said the country needed to develop new destinations and other tourism products in order to lure high-end tourists. “We should also look for new tourist source markets to sustain the tourism business,” he said.
He also called on the Government of Nepal to mobilise Nepali diplomatic missions abroad for tourism promotion in a more effective manner. “The government needs to make available certain budget to the diplomatic missions for tourism promotion. The missions’ performances should be assessed in order to encourage them to carry out their activities in a result-oriented manner,” he said.
Expressing his concern over the degrading state of physical infrastructures such as roads and airports, he stressed the need for the authorities concerned to carry out maintenance work on a regular basis.
“We must upgrade our infrastructures and maintain cleanliness in the sightseeing spots,” he said.
He, however, termed the removal of Nepal by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) from the latter’s ‘Significant Safety Concern’ list as a welcome step. “We hope that the European Commission (EC), too, will follow suit. And this will help us restore our destination image in the European and American markets,” he said.
Citing inadequate preparations for the Visit Nepal Year-2018, the government has deferred the national tourism event for 2020.
“The event can help us give a boost to the country’s ailing tourism sector. The Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), the private sector and other relevant agencies must make extensive preparations for the upcoming event,” he said.
He asked the responsible agencies to adopt a consumer-based marketing strategy in order to promote the mega event. “The tourism event can be an important opportunity for Nepal to highlight the unparalleled tourist places lying in the Mid- and Far-West Regions,” he said.
Those are suitable destinations for the European and American tourists, who have great interest in adventure activities. They have also a longer holiday.
“As the country has gone for federalism, we must create new destinations in each of the provinces,” he said.
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