VOL. 05, NO. 21, May 18, 2012 (Jestha 05, 2069)
Toll On Tourism
Nepal’s tourism sector suffers due to prolonged political instability
By DEBESH ADHIKARI
In his first maiden press conference after his election, President of Hotel Association Shyam Sundar Kakshyapati said that Nepal’s tourism had good prospects provided some sort of stability or guarantee that the roads would be secure for travel.
Aditya Baral, senior executive of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), has been reportedly saying that Nepal’s tourism prospects lies in the peaceful environment in the country.
If recent weeks of strikes and disturbances in various parts of Nepal are any indication, this kind of politics will definitely harm Nepal’s tourism sector and badly damage last two years’ promotion campaign aimed at bringing a million tourists. This has hurt the vision Nepal’s eminent tourism entrepreneur Yogendra Shakya tried to implement.
Experts said Nepal had just started reaping the gains of Nepal Tourism Year 2011 from the international market and was finally witnessing a healthy rise in the number of tourists, but the recent strikes and uncertain politics again sent an all-round negative message about Nepal.
The enthusiasm of tourism entrepreneurs, who entered the year with high hopes and expectations of getting a good return on their investment, is also fading as tourists are currently cancelling their bookings and postponing their trips.
But, tourist arrival this year has been encouraging from the first month and the talks about opening an international airport in Pokhara and buying new aircraft for the Nepal Airlines showed glimpses of possibilities for a bright future of tourism. However, all the good talks have now been sidelined by the current gloomy political context and if the scenario prolongs for a long time then Nepalese tourism sector will again have to face the dark hours like one during the Maoist insurgency period, warn tourism experts.
Visit Lumbini Year 2012 started on a high note and on better numbers than Nepal Tourism Year 2011. According to data released by Tribhuvan International Airport, in January and February, tourist arrivals via air increased by around 20 percent compared to the same period last year. Likewise, tourist arrivals in March also recorded a rise of 37.2 percent over the last term. And the same continued in April and tourist arrivals increased by 14.3 percent compared to arrival figures of the same period last year.
May-June is considered as a good tourist season, but the numbers are expected to drop. Hotels which were heavily booked for the month are now losing customers amidst political uncertainty, say hoteliers.
Nepal’s tourism prospects mainly hinged on the rise in numbers from the two neighbors—India and China.
But from the start of May the hotel bookings by the Indian tourists has started to dip more than the previous months, according to hoteliers.
Although the Lumbini Development Trust (LDT), in a bid to promote Lumbini, appointed six goodwill ambassadors, the efforts alone will not be enough to attract tourists as the country is in a desperate search of peace and stability.
Min Bahadur Sherchan, the oldest man to scale the Mt Everest and Ani Choing Dolma are appointed as goodwill ambassadors for Lumbini.
The goodwill ambassadors also include international figures like former Thai Minister for Public Health Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan , Sri Lankan Parliamentarian Chamal Rajapakse, former Japanese Ambassador to Nepal Tatsumo Mizuno, and Vice Chairman of Ehime University Prof. Dr. Ryuichi Yatabe.
The strikes across the country have also stalled the government’s plan to promote Visit Lumbini Year 2012 by erecting milestones at the local level.
The LDT has planned to install milestones at 108 places along the major highways and airports across the country to promote Lumbini.
“We had planned to complete the installation of the milestones within two weeks, but we have not been able to complete the task due to frequent strikes and closures in the country,” said Laxmi Bhattarai, official at the Lumbini Development Trust.