Publicity is not enough to retain tourist numbersThere is a need to preserve the country's cultural and natural assets to develop the tourism industry.
The tourism industry hopes to attract 2 million visitors during the upcoming Visit Nepal 2020 campaign. Although arrivals to Nepal have been increasing on a regular basis, keeping the target at 2 million is outrageous. This is especially so because the government does not seem to be attempting to promote the development of a tourism culture in Nepal. Neither has there been a serious attempt to update tourism- and travel-related facilities and infrastructure.
The tourism industry is one of the significant contributors to the country's gross domestic product. According to a report of the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total contribution by the travel and tourism industry to the country's GDP was 7.8 percent in 2017. Due to the expected rise in the country's GDP in the coming years, the tourism and travel industry needs to work to preserve Nepal's cultural, religious and natural sites. Despite the advantageous aspects of enhancing and promoting the travel and tourism industry in the country, there are many problems.
Following the devastating 2015 earthquake, the restoration of the country's major historical and cultural sites, one of the main attractions for tourists, is still underway. Taxi fares are not fixed, and travellers have to bargain to go to various places in Kathmandu Valley. Further, the taxi fares automatically rise when a person who doesn’t speak Nepali hails a cab. Public transportation lacks proper management.
The roads are riddled with potholes and covered with dust, and this is another major drawback that could hamper the inflow of tourists in the country. When one walks the streets of Bouddha, looking for beautiful monasteries, the only guarantee is that your clothes will be covered with dust. In recent years, we have had many international film stars visiting the country. Such celebrities have tweeted complaints about the dust problem and of the unhealthy atmospheric environment. Paragliding companies don’t give proper assurances to their customers about the weather; mountain climbing, which is another popular activity, is marred by traffic in the mountains.
No doubt, the expected number of tourists is on the rise, but one cannot expect the number to rise indefinitely without an upgrade of the transportation and living facilities, and the environment. Can the country’s problems be hidden from the rest of the world in this age of social media? Who is to be held responsible in this context? Does promoting tourism only mean targeting a certain number of foreign visitors to the country, earning foreign exchange and merely publicising a slogan?
Tourism is beyond that; it starts with preserving the culture of the country. People do not travel to the durbar squares in Kathmandu Valley just for the sake of it. They go to Bhaktapur and Patan Durbar Squares to see and feel how the Nepali people in the past lived, to admire the architectural beauty. Tourists then expect such areas to have been preserved to certain standards.
Foreign visitors have to pay an exorbitant entrance fee to enter such ‘protected ‘ areas. The question that arises when we see the poor condition of the cultural and heritage sites is this: Where does all the money go? Wasn't the money collected for the proper management of all the historical sites? It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the beauty of the country is on the verge of degradation. The glory of Kathmandu that the world knew of is no more as it used to be.
The ignorance of not only ordinary citizens but also high-level officials who hold positions in government will not help to promote the qualitative aspects of the country. Visit Nepal 2020 may lead to an inflow of a large number of tourists. But if the tourism and travel industry is merely limited to attracting foreign currency and counting the number of tourists, we are sure to head towards a decline of the great image of Nepal. A mere slogan cannot uplift tourism and will not retain tourist numbers in the long-run.
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