Open for businessGovt and the private sector both need to go an extra mile to revive tourism
Langtang Valley, in Rasuwa district, was severely affected by the April earthquake. An entire village was wiped off the map resulting in more than 300 deaths including tourists. Home to the Langtang National Park, the region is a major tourist destination for trekking in Nepal. After the quake, Langtang was blocked from the rest of the country. But recently, keeping the tourist season in mind, the foot trail to Langtang Valley has been opened. Another popular trekking route of the region, the Tamang Heritage Trail has also been opened. Tourism entrepreneurs in both the places hope to revive their businesses. Other major trekking routes in the Everest and the Annapurna regions affected by the quake have also been declared safe for travel by the government after conducting proper assessments.
According to the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report, tourism industry suffered a massive loss of Rs 62.37 billion due to the April earthquake and it is estimated that the tourist inflow will decrease by more than half this year over the forecast of the Tourism Ministry prior to the tremblor. The effect of the disaster will have long-term consequences. It has been predicted that the damage suffered by the industry could continue to have future repercussions for the next two to three years. This is a matter of concern as tourism contributes substantially to Nepal’s economy. Last year alone, as per the 2015 report of the World Travel and Tourism Council on Nepal, the tourism industry contributed Rs 83.7 billion to the GDP and generated 487,500 jobs. Therefore, it is crucial for the country to get its tourism industry back on track.
In the aftermath of the earthquake, the PDNA had identified the need to rebuild and rebrand the image of Nepal’s tourism and to announce 2017 and 2018 as Visit Nepal Year. The government should pay heed and work towards reviving the tourism sector to its pre-disaster levels. The new promotional theme ‘Nepal: Back on Top of the World’ announced last month by the National Tourism Recovery Committee is a promising start, but more needs to be done to assure the thousands of potential tourists that Nepal is a safe destination and that it is open for business. The concerned authorities should also reach out to the millions of Nepalis who live abroad to come home for holidays. In addition, the trekking and other fees can also be reduced to attract more tourists. Beyond the efforts of government, the private sector, the real driver of the tourism industry, will have to redouble its efforts in reaching out to potential tourists.