Unheard Voice of Nepalese Tourism, the tourism industry seeks urgent action
Santosh Tamang was eagerly awaiting for March, a peak tourist season in Nepal, advance booking of many clients for trekking in springtime was an auspicious signal to kick off trekking and mountaineering business for Visit Nepal 2020. Santosh is the founder and CEO of his trekking agency named Himalaya Chyangpa Nepal Treks & Expedition Pvt. Ltd was well prepared and expected to generate handsome revenue from this trekking season.
But everything didn’t go as expected. The outbreak of pandemic coronavirus badly affected the whole world. Similarly, its effect was seen in Nepalese tourism, the largest industry, and a great source to earn foreign currency. Many tourists were canceling their travel and tour due to fear of transmission of coronavirus. The tourism industry got even worse when the Government of Nepal decided to suspend the issuance of trekking and mountaineering permits for spring season and on arrival visas for foreigners till 30th April 2020 as a precautionary measure to prevent from the outbreak of coronavirus. As the nation went on lockdown, the ban on international flights got extended respectively. It also postponed the “Visit Nepal 2020” tourism promotional campaign which was getting prepared with an aim to attract two millions tourists this year.
The cloud of sadness began to hover around Santosh as his clients had to cancel their trekking and mountaineering for this season. He had to close his office until everything got recovered and normal. Santosh and his company are emblematic of more than 2000 Nepalese trekking and expedition agencies who are going through the same miserable conditions and facing really unexpected consequences. Santosh is worried about how he would be able to manage his office rent, salaries, and other operating expenses as he had planned to get enough revenue from this season but it got spoiled.
Tourism is a seasonal industry so trekking agencies manage to pay expenses of off-season from revenue earned from active seasons. The pandemic has led to massive unemployment in the tourism industry. From trekking and mountaineering guides, hoteliers, travel agents to porters and taxi drivers have faced the loss of their income and are desperate from this situation.
Nepalese tourism has always operated coherently with international tourism. The slight decline in the international tourism market will affect the Nepalese tourism as like the present condition. At present, tourism is at the wait and see moment. But the questions like: How will the Nepalese tourism industry bounce back? Will travel be the same as before? Or will it be completely different? Are still to be answered.
The government believes pandemic has provided time to reinvent the existing trails and discover new trails. Domestic tourism promotion and development is taken as an effective measure for the survival of tourism but most of the population belongs to the middle class and the travel culture is not the same as built by existing tourism that highly focuses on international tourists. Hence, it doesn’t provide any direct benefit to the trekking agencies.
Tourism entrepreneurs had a huge expectation from the new budget, but it failed to address the issues of the tourism industry. Rather than focusing on recovery of the tourism industry, the government announced a travel holiday for its employees to revive domestic tourism, an unrealistic and unacceptable plan. Government’s unprincipled act of not taking an effective road map to rescue the tourism industry without consultation of experts and tourism industry stakeholders has made the condition even worse.
Hopes and positivity are still there! Once the pandemic will be under control tourism can return back to its pace. “Building trust will be a crucial aspect to revive the industry, the pandemic has made everyone skeptical regarding health issues, even the pandemic will be under control, the government must ensure that Nepal is safe for tourism” Santosh adds.
The government must pay its attention towards tackling this challenging time and its plans and programmes should not be limited on papers and speeches rather than on implementation. The present challenging time has taught Nepalese tourism entrepreneurs to be more optimistic and visionary. It’s time for them to be resilient.