Amid criticism, Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai's rally to promote Visit Nepal Year stopped in SydneyPromotion of the year-long national tourism campaign has been called insensitive as Australia battles raging bushfires.
With Australia ravaged in one of the worst bushfire emergency in its history, Nepalis think it is insensitive to promote Nepal as a holiday destination. Some have expressed their ire at the timing of the junket as Australia is overwhelmed by the fire devastation with the tragic loss of human lives and properties. They say the government should instead convey a message of sympathy instead of pitching the year for tourism at these times.
"Visit Nepal campaign has not gained prominence in Australia due to its timing and will not attract Australian tourists as expected,” said Dr. Bharat Raj Poudel, in an interview with Southasia.com.au, a Sydney-based publication. Others believed the country should have instead shown its generosity by doing whatever it can for bushfire victims instead of launching the celebration.
Earlier this week, Australia's own tourism body decided to pause a star-studded international promotion campaign aimed at luring visitors to Australia.
Despite protests from the Nepali community over the timing, President of the Australian chapter of Non-Resident Nepali Association Keshav Kandel said the programme had to be done as it was pre-determined and the minister was already in the country for it. "We will now look into ways to conduct the programme to suit the sombre times," Kandel told Southasia.com.au
Already under fire for promoting the tourism at the wrong time, Minister Bhattarai's misfortune was compounded when a rally to promote the tourism in Sydney was stopped by security as it did not have the required permission.
The rally was led by Bhattarai, Nepali Ambassador to Australia Mahesh Raj Dahal, among others, but was asked by Sydney authorities against it as it was 'not in keeping with the legislation regarding a right to protest'.
A large number of people had gathered to take part in the rally and Sydney authorities feared the entire footpath would be taken up by the marching participants blocking access for pedestrians, reported the Sydney-based media organisation.
Former NRNA Australia treasurer Dila Kharel, tasked with securing permission from the authorities, claimed to have informed the authorities about the disapproval.
To add to Bhattarai's embarrassment, someone in the rally decided to lead a full-blown march. Participants also lamented the mismanagement of the event attended by a visiting dignitary like a tourism minister.
As the rally was stopped, dejected participants blamed the organisers for mismanagement.
Meanwhile, Minister Bhattarai took to Facebook to announce that the promotion programme was concluded successfully while questioning the intentions behind publishing ‘imaginary and false news’.
“The inauguration of the publicity campaign for the Visit Nepal 2020 organised by Sydney-based Nepal Embassy in association with NRNA among other organisations was concluded successfully,” read the post. “The Speaker of the New South Wales state along with political leaders from the ruling and the opposition parties and representatives of the municipality also participated in the programme and delivered congratulatory messages. The campaign was also promoted by organising a silent march.”
In the same post, Bhattarai explicitly denounced the news reports regarding Sydney authorities stopping the programme.
“Why is the prestige of the nation and the relationship with a friendly nation being played with by publishing imaginary and false news?” wrote Bhattarai.
The government launched the much-awaited tourism marketing campaign on January 1 with an aim to bring 2 million tourists during the year, and inject at least Rs200 billion into the national economy.