The first month of the Nepal Tourism Year (NTY) 2011 saw a significant increase in the number of tourists to this country. The target of a million visitors in 2011 has to be taken in the light of making the country tourism-friendly rather than run after mere numbers. Yet, according to the figures made available, the month of January this year saw an increase in tourists arrival by as much 26.2 per cent, compared to the same month last year with 32,914 international visitors opting to travel to the country. However, it must be said that the tourism industry is facing an uphill task despite all the hype. What is a matter of concern is that the political instability has made many potential visitors to skip Nepal from their itinerary for security reasons. Some countries have even asked their citizens to exercise caution before visiting Nepal. This has to some degree had an adverse impact, and, as such, probably this has made many potential tourists to think twice before visiting Nepal.
This calls for improving the law and order situation which also means that there should be political stability that can be seen lacking. Therefore, it behoves on all concerned to ensure that political stability prevails in Nepal again so that it becomes a safe destination for tourists. Ironically, Nepal at one time was regarded as one of safest destinations for tourists, but times have changed, and there continue to be reports pouring about tourists being assaulted, robbed and cheated. Meanwhile, for Nepal to be a prime destination, the tourism infrastructure must be upgraded in the real sense and not in a patch work manner. This means that seriousness is what counts instead of mere lip service as has been done with NTY 2011. The sad state of the Tribhuvan International Airport, the only international airport in the country, is well-known to every visitor entering the country. Moreover, the space constraints both for the planes and the passengers is glaring, but nothing significant has been done to effect the necessary actions. So that the tourists are not put off, they should be provided with the necessary facilities, that is convenience, as the first impression of Nepal.
In the meantime, what is interesting is that the number of Chinese tourists grew by 79.6 per cent in the month of January this year and the Indian market recorded a 35.5 per cent growth. This shows that there is much potential for regional tourism, apart from the traditional European and North American market. Although the marketing of Nepal for visitors could be better, this increase in tourism arrival should be welcomed. However, we cannot afford to sit back and expect tourists to drop in casually. What is needed is sprucing up the tourism products in keeping with the expected demands and choices of the discerning tourists these days. If done, this should be able to attract not only a million but many times that number of visitors. This all goes to say that if the task is taken up in earnestness and with adequate investment, tourism is bound to become a backbone of the Nepalese economy in the days to come.
The high importance attached to the wetlands sees February 2 being marked every year as the World Wetlands Day all over the world. The conservation of the wetlands is necessary because of the benefits that they provide to the people and the ecosystem. The theme for this “Forest for Water and Wetlands” itself confirms the vital role that the wetlands play, so the urgent need to conserve them. Nepal is a signatory to the Ramsar Convention. and has some nine Ramsar sites in the country—Koshi Tappu being the first to be declared so. However, despite the tall talks for conservation of wetlands, the degradation and encroachment of wetlands have continued in Nepal.
The destruction of the wetlands could spell a death knell on countless species of animals, birds, reptiles, and plants. That would be an irreparable loss for the nation. The urgent need is to put a stop to the over-exploitation of the wetland resources and bank for sustainability. It calls for pragmatism at the policy-making level as well as making the wetland dependents more aware of the need to conserve the wetlands. If measures are not taken now, the possibility of the wetlands disappearing is imminent in the next few decades.