KATHMANDU: To compete with Far Eastern region, SAARC countries are developing regional concepts to boost intra-tourism with South Asian regional
tourism cooperation. The SAARC region alone has a population of 1.5 billion which itself is a huge market for intra-tourist movement.
"During a meet organised at Dhaka, we have come up with a regional concept of tourism promotion within SAARC countries," said Ram Kaji Koney, president of Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA).
According to him, the Dhaka declaration has been made and its draft is prepared which will be sent to all SAARC members to get approval for operation. After the approval, the regional concept will be declared during the NATTA Himalayan Mart that will be organised in Nepal. Far Eastern region with Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore has a broad tourism market and is a tough competitor for the South Asian region. The region is having economy tour and travel packages with number of tourism promotions.
"If the regional concept gets declared, SAARC region will be able to compete with the Far East region's huge tourism market which is giving us tough competition," said Koney. According to him, along with the regional concept Nepal can also get its tourism promotion.
"Once the tourism cooperation gets established, we are confident there will be overwhelming increase in tourist arrivals to Nepal too," Koney said adding that Nepal is centrally located according to the flight distance among the SAARC countries. The average flight distance is only one-and-a-half hours which is a plus point for Nepal, he said.
"We have to forward positive messages regarding peace and stability here. We have diverse products and other tourism products like pilgrimage, trekking, tour, mountaineering, adventure tourism products and many more, which will definitely help increase tourist movement," he added.
While intra-tourism cooperation will increase tourist movement, tourists may still face visa problems. So, there must be facilitation from the government's side for the SAARC region and cooperation between the public and private sectors. It can be either be economy tour and travel packages, development of sustainable tourism and eco tourism.