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The tourism industry is gradually but steadily moving away from the traditional path. Over the years many forms and types of tourism are taking shape. The tourism entrepreneurs, academicians, policymakers, and think-tank groups are bringing new ideas and innovations in the field of travel, tourism, and hospitality. While in Nepal, the tourism sector in general following the traditional path. The interest and purpose of tourists to travel are much wider and different in nature. The tourists look forward to having a pleasurable experience in terms of a safe and comfortable journey, comfortable accommodation, good meals, interesting places to visit. Each person is different so are the choices.
Nature has given Nepal to showcase numerous unique places and natural wonders. Culturally, Nepal is reach with hundreds of different cultures, traditions that are not yet showcased. Basically, foreign tourists visit Nepal to have a glimpse of nature and to taste the richness of culture. In a globalized tourism market, Nepal must bring innovative ideas on how to posture better so as to sell the products and services. The tourism industry fundamentally is a service industry. The products provided are also services in essence. The products to satisfy the needs of the customers, in this case, tourists, at places away from their residence are regarded as tourism products. Let’s think what the Nepali market is currently selling their own products to tourists. Currently, there is one national flag bearer that only flies to a very limited foreign destination. The percentage of passengers flying via national flag bearer is assumed to be around 5% of the total international flights. It is self-evident that Nepal is earning a nominal amount from operating international flights. However, with the extended domestic flights including, mountain flights, heli-services, the aviation sector is earning a sizable amount of foreign currency. The considerable amount of foreign currency earning is coming through the sale of hotel rooms and meals. Yet, the services and quality of food with hospitality business demands progressive changes. It should be noted that there are hardly any locally made traditional products for shopping.
Most items for a souvenir are imported either from India or China. Even the ‘khada’, a traditional scarf used to welcome a guest, is imported from China or India. Nepal is rich for traditional clothes, artifacts, and handmade items. Over the years, the production of traditional items that should have been showcased, are declining. The industry has done little promoting the sale of Nepali traditional materials.
It’s an irony that the tourists who spend some money doing shopping but eventually most chunk of that money too flows out of the country. This trend has not helped in developing Nepali products on the one hand and sending declining cultural images abroad on the other. The recreational and entertaining places to attract tourists around the Kathmandu valley and other cities to prolong their stay are limited. The renovation work of heritage sites that were devastated by the 7.8 magnitudes of 2015 earthquake is painfully slow. Temples, stupas. monuments and pagodas that were the center of attraction were either completely collapsed or in a bad shape are yet to be renovated and restored. It’s a Nepal’s pride that within Kathmandu valley, there are seven UNESCO listed world heritage sites. They include the Durbar Squares of Hanuman Dhoka (Kathmandu), Patan and Bhaktapur, the Hindu temples of Pashupati and Changu Narayan and the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Bauddhanath. If the world heritage sites are renovated and refurbished with permitted facilities around, Kathmandu valley itself can attract more tourists with longer stays. The same is true with all historical sites, places, and places of natural attractions scattered all over the country.
Nepal has abundant resources attracting more and more tourists, much beyond the targeted figure 2 million for VNY 2020 but the crux of the problem remains with the commitment, sincerity and honest implementation of developmental programs. The dirty partisan politics and unchecked corruption has hugely affected the upward mobility. The tourism sector has become the victim of all these political and non-performing as well as corrupt bureaucracy. After the 2015 earthquake historical heritage sites, Nepal has done little harnessing the benefit of natural tourism products. It’s a much wider area where the products could be diversified and expanded. If Nepal pays adequate attention to save the very essence of the Mother Nature there are numerous avenues to expand tourism in the country. Current practice is towards defacing, damaging and abusing the precious gifts of nature rather than protecting and conserving those valuable natural assets. If one travel from Taplejung to Darchula, one can observe how mother nature is abused in the name of modernization. Where there are no people living and no need for the road, bulldozers are used rampantly defacing and destroying the very beauty of nature. Hundreds of roads, mostly temporary ones are constructed along tourists trails destroying the traditional trekking paths. Vechicles are hardly seen plying in these namesake roads constructed in the remote locations. The namesake roads along the Himalayan region are destroying the expanding trekking business in the country. The only outcome from these namesake roads is landslide, erosion, flood and so on.
Thus, let the policymakers and stakeholders, stop the looming menace and think NOW for the very existence of succeeding generations.