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- Visit Nepal 2020: How tall are the targets? Are they achievable? Are we really committed?
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Nepal extends 500 miles along the Himalaya spreading east to west. Nepal, a country with very significant features, mountains, hills, inner Terai and terai knitted into one is the largest Himalayan state. Bordered with the two largest populated countries of the world, India, and China, Nepal is in a better position to develop and prosper. However, given political unrest and prolonged transition period, the country has failed to accrue much-needed progress. By virtue of its geographical position and diverse unique natural beauty, Nepal has numerous opportunities for promoting tourism. Ever since the 1950s, slowly but steadily the tourism sector is expanding. Tourism is one of the vital sectors introducing Nepal with the outer world. It has helped to promote Nepal’s interest together with furthering business and industries.
Despite huge potentials of expanding tourism all over Nepal, it has almost confined in some parts or pockets. Several factors are limiting the expansion of tourism in the country. Currently, the major tourism pockets are Kathmandu valley, Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini and Everest region. These are some areas where the basic facilities and parameters are known to international tourists. Though there are other spots and locations where tourists & travelers do visit but with limited facilities, products, and services the number of visitors there are quite limited. The current trend shows that east and west parts of the country have been benefiting in a greater magnitude while other regions or provinces lagging far behind. It shows the tourism industry has been overly focused on some areas while not giving adequate attention to the best parts of the country. Trekking, hiking, and adventure tourism spots are also concentrated in the same traditional areas of tourism. However, over the years, there is a growing awareness and enthusiasm among the people in mofussil /hinterland to promote tourism in the neglected parts of the country. These traditional locations definitely need more services, products, and, activities to add so as to retain tourists for long.
The traditional way of doing tourism business has not yielded increasing the number and more importantly length of stay. When the places, facilities, services, and products are limited, the chances of prolonging the stay is very thin. Thus the tourism entrepreneurs must think to expand the facilities taking consideration of the emerging global trends and promotional activities. Also, the available human resources and stakeholders must be fully abreast of international standards, etiquette, technology, and practices to meet the changing interest of international tourists. The trend of domestic tourism in Nepal shows a drastic increment within the last decade.
Nepalis and mainly youths have shown much interest in traveling around the country. The industry has to carefully consider the changed interest and context to add up several new areas to attract more and more international tourists. Not much has been done in value chain aspects; if little has been done a major chunk of money goes for imports resulting in less profit. Production of handicrafts and items made in Nepal have to be focused together with fine-tuning the services of human resources.
The prevailing pace of tourism promotion needs wider thinking should the arrival target to meet set for Visit Year 2020. Sustaining of 1 million with the current practices may be possible but much has to do to widen the reach. Tourism is a perennial as well as the key sector of foreign currency earning and job creation. Opening up new spots and locations stretching from east to far western districts only can attract more tourists and increase the length of stay. The income level and quality of life in most districts in western Nepal are below standard.
Poverty is rampant in the in far west if compared with eastern districts. Of late tourism, entrepreneurs have been trying to start hotels, resorts, travel & trekking agencies outside of the traditional areas. There are good signs but far more have to be done towards the expansion of the tourism industry to root out poverty, inequality and regional imbalances. The government with its political arms at the grassroots and the private sector need to work together diversifying tourism business. Pro- tourism industry policies and better-regulated implementation with increased domestic as well as foreign direct investment are vital for expanding the industry.