Tourism, one of the economic mainstays of Nepal, is likely to get back to the complete normal course by the end of 2017. Two months after the devastating earthquake, the Nepalese government in partnership with the local tourism business stakeholders have begun reaching out to the world with the core message that its tourism assets, by and large, have remained intact. And with the government driven by “building back better” strategy, the revival in tourism will be much expeditious than what outside world would imagine.
“ The images which the world saw after the earthquake have ended up creating the perception that all is lost for Nepal and its tourism products. But this is far from the ground reality. Out of our 75 districts, only 11 have been affected by the earthquake and there has been no damage to the highway or any airport. Among our seven noted heritage sites, only one has been completely damaged,” Tulasi Prasad Gautam, DG, Nepal Tourism emphasised while addressing a recent meeting with Indian tourism stakeholders in Delhi.
Ashok Pokharel, President of Nepal Association of Tour Operators (NATO), elaborated further underlining that damage to the tourism infrastructure is minimal. “ Only 3 trekking trails (out of 35) have been affected. 90 percent of the hotels are operational and accommodation along popular trekking trails – Annapurna and Everest- have been marginally impacted. So our tourism base has not been dented in a big way and it will not take much time to fix the marginal damages,” he said.
While Nepal Tourism in the coming months will be reaching out to more major source markets in its bid to convince them that the country is as safe as any other place in the world, the country is also likely to embark on a major social media driven campaign to gradually rebuild its arrival base. The relaxation in advisory issued by some major long haul markets like the US, Australia and New Zealand in the recent weeks are being viewed as the first green shoots for the desired turnaround. “ With our consistent efforts, the tides will change and we expect to win back at least 70 percent of the regular arrival numbers by 2016 end and we hope that by 2017 end, we will definitely be close to the foreign tourist arrival numbers registered in 2014. Our projection for the recovery timeline is based on an analysis of the impact of typhoon in Philippines and earthquake in Turkey on their respective tourism businesses in the past and the time it had taken them to get back to the normal course,” Pokharel points out. In 2014, Nepal had received about 8,00,000 foreign tourists and it was eyeing to cross the one million figure in 2016 for the first time in its history.
By Ritwik Sinha