The tourism sector is one of the country's largest industries, contributing about 8 per cent of the country's GDP and employing more than a million workers. The pandemic has brought the sector to its knees, affecting thousands of people whose livelihood depends on it.

The global pandemic has had the worst effect on the lower and middle class with little to no savings, and even fulfilling the basic needs has become a major challenge for them.

A trekker's paradise, blessed with a diverse landscape, the majestic snow-capped mountains, charming hills and abundant green natural forests, Nepal has been one of the world's greatest travel destinations, luring more than a million tourists annually. But due to the corona pandemic, the tourist arrival rate has declined to below 10 per cent. Especially the service industry – tourism, aviation and the hospitality sector – has been hit hard.

The cancellation of all upcoming mountaineering expeditions and travel and tour packages has resulted in job losses of around 15,000 tour, trekking and mountain guides.

Likewise, massive cancellation of airlines, hotel and tourist bookings has resulted in widespread unemployment and loss of income. The loss of jobs and Nepal's inability to create opportunities will increase poverty and inequality, which could cause widespread crime and theft.

According to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Nepal's tourism industry is estimated to lose more than $330 million due to the lockdown enforced in the wake of the pandemic. The tourism entrepreneurs have, thus, requested the government to bring plans and policies to promote tourism for its survival.

Meanwhile, the government is gathering views from different stakeholders and experts to promote domestic tourism.

The pandemic can be taken as an opportunity to promote domestic tourism. Alternatives like a two-day weekend to civil servants should help boost domestic tourism.

Tourist arrivals from Europe and America are not likely to happen soon, and it is going to take a long time to recover due to the large impact of the pandemic on those countries. Nepal's existing political instability and limited resources cannot immediately create a large number of jobs and opportunities, which means the country has to focus on expanding the tourism and agriculture sectors that contribute to the economy.

With support from the government and the private sector, we can implement strategies to support domestic tourism. Various countries are already making efforts to plan new forms of tourism and invest significantly in the sector to strengthen their economy in the long term.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 6 2021, of The Himalayan Times.