Incorporate WTO provisions in tourism policy, says Gurung

Himalayan News Service

Kathmandu, June 25:

Dr Harka Gurung, a noted geographer and former tourism minister has emphasised on framing a new tourism policy, compatible with commitments and provisions under the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Speaking at an interaction programme on Nepal’s WTO membership and its implications on tourism industry, Dr Gurung said that post-WTO period would bring both challenges and opportunities, which need to be tackled wisely in order to capitalise on opportunities. He, however, felt that a lethargic implementation process and other bureaucratic hassles have always been serious problems in achieving the objectives. Dr Gurung also urged the private sector and tourism entrepreneurs to gear up for reaping the benefits from such challenges.

On the occasion, Prachanda Man Shrestha, joint secretary at the ministry of industry, commerce and supplies and Ashok Pokharel, executive member of Nepal Tourism Board presented papers representing the government and private sector respectively. Shrestha said that Nepal has committed to open more than 70 sub-sectors in services including five in tourism. According to him, Nepal has agreed to open foreign direct investment in star

hotels, graded restaurants, travel agencies and tour operators, maintenance and repair of aircraft as well as computer reservation systems. According to Nepal’s working party report, foreign direct investment up to 80 per cent will be allowed in the above-mentioned sectors with conditions. Foreign human resource has been limited at 15 per cent of the total workforce but only at executive or managerial level.

In his presentation, Pokharel criticised the government for not holding adequate consultations with concerned stakeholders and failure to disseminate pros and cons about WTO membership. He also asked to form a taskforce to propagate and incorporate views from concerned stakeholders on WTO provisions and their impacts on Nepal’s economy.

Commenting on the papers, Dipendra Purush Dhakal, former tourism secretary, underlined that capitalisation of opportunities by adequately meeting threats and challenges would be beneficial in the long run.