Visit Nepal 2020 called off, finallyThe national campaign that aimed to draw 2 million foreign visitors this year was, however, going downhill from the very beginning.
The government has formally cancelled the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign, a month after its major promotional activities in the overseas markets were halted, in the wake of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Nepal itself is currently under lockdown starting March 24, and it has been extended until April 7 midnight.
Kedar Bahadur Adhikari, secretary at the Tourism Ministry, told the Post that last Sunday's (March 22) cabinet meeting decided to call off the campaign that aimed to draw 2 million tourists in the country this year.
"Similarly, the meeting also decided to dissolve the Visit Nepal Secretariat with effect from April 13," he said.
On March 1, despite Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s instruction to the Tourism Ministry to postpone the Visit Nepal 2020, the high-level committee for the control and prevention of Covid-19, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Ishwar Pokhrel, decided to halt the campaign until April.
The decision had led to the confusion among tourism entrepreneurs hi, as the government did not officially announce whether the tourism campaign was cancelled, postponed or continued.
The Visit Nepal 2020 campaign was planned to revitalise Nepal’s tourism industry after the earthquakes of 2015. The Post-Disaster Needs Assessment report had urged the government to announce 2017 and 2018 as Visit Nepal years to reassure visitors that reconstruction and rehabilitation would be completed by then.
The comprehensive report prepared by the National Planning Commission had said there was a need to rebuild and re-brand the image of tourism, and significant efforts and resources would be required to do so. Subsequently, the Policy and Programmes for 2016-17 announced the launch of Visit Nepal Year 2018.
However, the Tourism Ministry was forced to postpone the 2018 campaign to 2020 due to the slow pace of road and airport upgradation, and reconstruction of historical monuments and cultural heritage sites.
But the 2020 campaign was embroiled in controversy from the very beginning with entrepreneurs saying the campaign was bound to fail. The position of chief of the Tourism Board remained vacant for much of January, even after the campaign was launched with much fanfare on the first of the month. But things had started going downhill much earlier.
The website for Visit Nepal 2020 did not have any promotional content until at least mid-September, for instance. The Finance Ministry did not release the budget to carry out promotional activities on time. The coronavirus epidemic put the final nail on the coffin of Visit Nepal.
And then in late December, a new strain of coronavirus was detected in Wuhan of China, one of the major source countries for Nepal’s tourism. Over the months, the virus started to invade various countries, taking the shape of the pandemic. The first case of the virus was reported in Nepal in January. But it was declared recovered. While counties across the world struggled to cope with the virus, the Nepal government largely remained complacent with the tourism minister bent on promoting the campaign, much to the chagrin of the stakeholders.
"Now, it's cancelled," said Adhikari. “The government, however, has not announced whether this campaign will be held in the coming years ahead.”
Frequently asked questions about the coronavirus outbreak
UPDATED as of May 26, 2020
What is Covid-19?
Covid-19, short for coronavirus disease, is an illness caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, short for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. Common symptoms of the disease include fever, dry cough, fatigue, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How contagious is Covid-19?
Covid-19 can spread easily from person to person, especially in enclosed spaces. The virus can travel through the air in respiratory droplets produced when a sick person breathes, talks, coughs or sneezes. As the virus can also survive on plastic and steel surfaces for up to 72 hours and on cardboard for up to 24 hours, any contact with such surfaces can also spread the virus. Symptoms take between two to 14 days to appear, during which time the carrier is believed to be contagious.
Where did the virus come from?
The virus was first identified in Wuhan, China in late December. The coronavirus is a large family of viruses that is responsible for everything from the common cold to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). After an initial outbreak in Wuhan that spread across Hubei province, eventually infecting over 80,000 and killing more than 3,000, new infection rates in mainland China have dropped. However, the disease has since spread across the world at an alarming rate.
What is the current status of Covid-19?
The World Health Organisation has called the ongoing outbreak a “pandemic” and urged countries across the world to take precautionary measures. Covid-19 had spread to 210 countries and infected more than 5,589,712 people with 347,903 deaths. In South Asia, India has reported the highest number of infections at 144,950 with 4,172 deaths. While Pakistan has reported 57,705 confirmed cases with 1,197 deaths. Nepal has so far reported 772 cases with four deaths.
How dangerous is the disease?
The mortality rate for Covid-19 is estimated to be 3.6 percent, but new studies have put the rate slightly higher at 5.7 percent. Although Covid-19 is not too dangerous to young healthy people, older individuals and those with immune-compromised systems are at greater risk of death. People with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, or those who’ve recently undergone serious medical procedures, are also at risk.
How do I keep myself safe?
The WHO advises that the most important thing you can do is wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizers with at least 60 percent alcohol content. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces like your computers and phones. Avoid large crowds of people. Seek medical attention if symptoms persist for longer than a few days.
Is it time to panic?
No. The government has imposed a lockdown to limit the spread of the virus. There is no need to begin stockpiling food, cooking gas or hand sanitizers. However, it is always prudent to take sensible precautions like the ones identified above.