KATHMANDU: The Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) have developed an action plan which primarily aims at revitalizing the tourism sector that was badly affected by the more than two years long Covid-19 pandemic.
In the action plan, the MoCTCA has included a program to celebrate the Visit Nepal Decade (VND) which aims to achieve sustainable development of the tourism sector. According to the MoCTA, the government is formally announcing VND (2023-2033) in line with the tourism revitalization action plan.
The MoCTCA formed a committee on June 13 to study the suggestions received in the past and formulate an immediate and long-term action plan for revitalizing the tourism sector of Nepal. The action plan developed on the basis of suggestions from different quarters was approved by the ministry.
The action plan also envisages organizing an international conference of tourism ministers of South Asia and the Pacific region at Annapurna base camp within 4 months.
Guideline within six months
It is mentioned in the action plan that the guidelines for standardizing tourist services/ facilities will be prepared within 6 months. The guideline covers standards for food and services, tourist vehicle operation, trekking guide training, and rafting, among others.
Appointment of focal person
The action plan also incorporates appointing an official working at Nepali missions abroad as a focal person for tourism-related issues. The action plan also includes organizing discussion programs once a month with foreign embassies in Nepal and fortnightly with Nepalese embassies abroad. Nepal’s tourism sector is a major source of job creation, poverty alleviation, and foreign currency earning. However, the covid-19 pandemic badly affected this sector causing a significant decline in tourist arrivals and a slowdown in associated businesses. According to Economic Survey 2019/20, the total number of tourist arrivals in 2019 increased by 2.1 percent to 1197 thousand compared to 2018. However, tourist arrivals in 2020 decreased by about 81 percent to 230,085 compared to the previous year. Similarly, the number further decreased by 34.3 percent to 150,962, the lowest since 1977.
Similarly, the foreign exchange earnings from foreign tourists have decreased by 46 percent to Rs 13.5 billion. Businessmen working in this sector had suffered huge financial losses, while thousands of workers and laborers in the formal and informal sectors have lost their jobs. After the covid-19 pandemic, the relief and revival packages introduced by the government for the development and promotion of the tourism sector, the vaccination campaign against covid-19, and the efforts of the private sector have brought in signs of improvement in recent times. Accordingly, the number of tourists visiting Nepal up to June 2022 reached 237,660.
Target to bring a million tourists
The government of Nepal has set a target of bringing in one million tourists through the current year’s budget statement. For this, the government has come up with a raft of initiatives including conducting programs, giving discounts on annual licenses and renewal fees for businesses related to the tourism sector, including hotels, and continuing the concessional loans meant for the revival of the tourism sector. Similarly, in collaboration with the provincial government and the private sector, the Nepal Tourism Board will conduct programs such as developing hill stations for recreational and adventure tourism in hilly and Himalayan areas, fairs and road shows to increase tourists from neighboring countries.
The development and promotion programs of the tourism sector include establishing a mountain climbing research center and a museum reflecting the adventure identity of the Sherpas in the Everest region, expanding facilities such as roads, drinking water, toilets, and free internet services, among others, in the major tourist areas, fully operationalizing the Gautam Buddha and Pokhara International Airports are also included in the plan.