As much as we would like to see Nepal’s tourism industry bloom to its full potential, we are in doubt about the goals set by the Nepal Tourism Board for Visit Nepal 2020. Visit Nepal 2020 is a campaign introduced by the Government of Nepal and Nepal Tourism Board collaboratively. It aims to pull a total of two million tourists to Nepal in the year 2020. After the success of Visit Nepal 1998 and Nepal Tourism Year 2011, Visit Nepal 2020 was introduced in an attempt to revive the number of tourists visiting Nepal and improve suffering the socio-economic condition of the country.
The media coverage of the massive earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015 left an impression on the world that Nepal was largely damaged. Tourist inflow during 2015 was lower than the preceding six years and people were afraid Nepal could never recover. With the onset of 2016, the tourist inflow increased by 14% and by the end by 32% than the previous year. Tourists were travelling to Nepal for promoting Nepal or with the motive to help the affected areas of Nepal.
In 2018, Nepal Tourism bounced back and reached the magical mark of one million. The previously scheduled Nepal Tourism Year 2018 was postponed to 2020 in hopes that two million people can be attracted towards Nepal’s tourist destination within the year of 2019. Destination marketing, especially for the Gandaki region with tourist’s favorite Pokhara in it, is a major priority for the campaign. International airports in Pokhara and Lumbini are under construction and are expected to aid the arrival of the two million people that Nepal expects to host in the year of 2020.
The real question, however, is whether or not Nepal is able enough to host such a large number of tourists in the upcoming year of 2020. As of February 2019, the prospects are bleak. To be able to double the number of tourists from a million in 2018 to two million in 2020, Nepal must focus on the infrastructure as much as they focus on the marketing of the campaign.
The Nepal Tourism Board has taken the help of International Ambassadors of Nepal in Europe to promote Visit Nepal 2020 in various countries across the world. The infrastructure of Nepal has a long way to go before it can host two million tourists, as it aims to. There are quite a few loopholes in Nepal’s structure which need to be addressed before the start of the Visit Nepal Year 2020. For Nepal to successfully maintain the inflow of tourists and enhance tourist experience, listed points must be looked over within 2019.
International and Domestic airports maintenance
Condition of the Tribhuwan International airport in Kathmandu is no better than the domestic airports across Nepal: they are all pathetic. Traffic congestion and waiting time for refueling are problems that have become mundane to the international aircrafts trying to land at Kathmandu. Many cases of diversion of aircrafts to Lucknow airport of India have taken place in 2018. The TIA has increased its working hours from 18 hours to 21 hours to accommodate more flights, but limited fuel equipment and parking space make the changes difficult to apply.
Since an airport is the first place that a tourist steps into in a foreign land, the maintenance of Nepal’s airports is a major issue that needs to be addressed. Very trivial matters such as seating and security facilities, luggage management, cleanliness and timely flights are hard to get right in Nepal. On an average the TIA receives 40 flights in off-season and 50 flights in tourist season.
For Nepal to be able to intake 2 million people, mostly through flights, Nepal should have a capacity to manage at least 100 flights a day, which requires a lot of effort on the part of Nepal’s government and Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal.
The hotel and accommodation facilities in Nepal might not be at par with the number and quality required to host such a large pool of tourists. Most international tourists prefer managing their trip before arrival and mostly prefer to visit new places in peak tourist season or holiday season. The Government of Nepal is pressuring the Hotel Industry to expand in order to accommodate the great inflow of people expected in 2020. Airbnb, the global accommodation facility, is not popular in Nepal and hotels are numbered.
The system of booking hotels online is also not managed properly and most hotels are far away from the internet. International hotel chains such as OYO, Marriott, Aloft and Sheraton have or are in the process of entering the Nepali market, which might solve the problem of space to a certain extent, but will Nepal benefit from these international chains?
Trekking the Himalayas
The major attraction for tourists who wish to visit Nepal is the wide range of trekking routes and Himalayas present in Nepal. Tourists usually fly into Nepal during the trekking season to trek towards Annapurna and Everest Base Camps. After the trekking season of early 2018, 32,000 kilos of waste was collected from Everest alone.
To allow more trekkers to travel the routes without proper waste management system would mean allowing more harm to the natural environment of Nepal. This not only adds to the already existing problem of pollution in Nepal but also diminishes the charm of the trek routes to the trekkers.
The road infrastructure of Nepal is undergoing construction with the help of various international aids. The roads to remote areas of Nepal are in poor condition and in some areas, concrete roads are non-existent. This increases the problem of dust pollution and increase in road accidents during rainy seasons is observed. The Government of Nepal should focus on improving the road structure of Nepal for better experience with decreased risk for the travelers during their visit to the country in 2020.
It is only after Nepal is successfully able to tackle these concerns that it will ready to host the two million people that she aims to. Until then, is it good for Nepal to try to host such a big number of two million people?