Just one ATMPeople are wondering in disbelief at the government’s callous approach.
Depleting foreign exchange reserves are one half of the story; the other is how we cultivate an atmosphere to guarantee that we are not in short supply. The advice by the Immigration Office to travellers to carry $200 in cash when entering Nepal through the main thoroughfare is mainly the reason for the uproar among people, wondering in disbelief at the government’s callous approach to the handling of the situation. The authorities curiously fail to contemplate the consequences of their actions or their inaction meted out to tourists even before they set foot in Nepal. Is it a sense of foreboding of what the travellers are to expect during their trip?
The million-dollar question remains: Who are the officials that come up with such brilliant ideas, and how does it get sanctioned by the ministry? At a time when digital payment has become the norm in exchanging the standard measure of value, expedited primarily by the Covid-19 pandemic, Nepal’s Immigration Office has decided to reverse the trend by asking people to pay for their visa in cash. The ludicrous reason is the availability of just one ATM at the airport. And the advice on carrying paper money is primarily to alleviate the problem of overcrowding at the airport.
When a country like ours depends on tourism for foreign exchange reserves, especially given the current economic situation, the authorities should have gone all out of their way to cover every gap related to infrastructural deficiency, especially that which facilitates the payment for a visa. And why is there just a single ATM at an international airport? But instead, the Immigration Office unabashedly issues such senseless advice adding more doubt to the mind of the weary traveller. It clearly shows the divide between what is necessary and the means we go about achieving it.
It’s hurdles all the way for the tourists, limitations before they enter and interestingly enough, it doesn’t stop there. Nepal is fortunate that most travellers report having a fabulous time mingling with friendly people and an envious natural landscape. Apart from that, what infrastructural investments has the government made to cater to the needs of the tourists? More importantly, is there a plan to attract tourists at all? If the authorities expect tourists to come to Nepal for a casual lie in hotel rooms, they are on a hiding to nothing in the long run.
We are gradually seeing the revival of tourism in the country. In March alone, the country received 42,006 tourists, the highest monthly arrivals in almost two years. And close to 5,500 tourists made their way through the gates last Saturday. It has taken a long time for people to muster the courage to move again. With the pandemic threatening sporadically, one is uncertain how long this relatively safe environment is to last. Unless it is in the authorities’ grand scheme of things to scupper every opportunity that could allow some normalcy in the tourism industry, they certainly need to get their act together.