Kathmandu, June 25

Recently, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation published the Nepal Tourism Statistics 2018 that revealed that the average expenses per visitor per day dropped 18 per cent to $44 in 2018 compared to $54 in 2017. Along with the average spending of tourists, their average length of stay is also failing to grow each year.

Hence, despite welcoming record number of tourists in 2018, the country failed to generate the kind of expected income from the tourism sector.

It is, therefore, hardly surprising that attracting more highend tourists in order to generate more income is being emphasised in recent days. Yet, tourism entrepreneurs say that Nepal is a diverse country with diverse products suitable for all kinds of tourists. Thus, stakeholders should also focus on backpackers along with highend tourists.

Sunil Shakya, president of Pacific Asia Travel Association Nepal Chapter, said that Nepal can offer products suitable for both backpackers and high-end tourists. The historical, cultural, natural and spiritual products on offer could cater to a variety of guests as per their need, he said. “Most of the trekkers and travellers are backpackers who spend money on our roadside shops and local markets that could actually uplift the livelihood of people living in rural areas,” he added.

He further said that backpackers are the ones who stay for a long time and generally revisit.

“Backpackers can actually support small hotels, motels, lodges, home-stay businesses and local markets, which really matters for developing countries like Nepal,” he added.

He, however, said high-end tourists play a significant role in revenue generation. As per Shakya, high-end tourists are one-time travellers, but they spend a lot of money at once.

“They stay at top hotels, go to expensive places and spend with an open heart. Hence, we should focus on bringing highend tourists, but we should not ignore the backpackers.”

Currently, almost 65 per cent tourists travelling to Nepal are backpackers, he added.

Likewise, Ashok Pokharel, president of Nepal Association of Tour Operators, said that the country is still developing the infrastructure required for high-end tourists. In this situation, backpackers are supporting Nepali tourism industry to sustain.

“From connectivity to accommodations and luxurious facilities to expensive products, there are a lot of things we have to work on. Although our major focus should be on high-end tourists, it would be better to prioritise backpackers too,” he said.

Meanwhile, Bijay Amatya, CEO of Kora Tours, said the focus should be on both numbers and earnings so that the country’s tourism industry can flourish.

“Backpackers may be good for growth of numbers, but in terms of revenue, we have to develop good strategies to bring in high-end tourists,” he said.

Similarly, Prachanda Man Shrestha, former CEO of Nepal Tourism Board, said that backpackers should be encouraged as they mostly travel to rural areas.

“There are very few highly settled cities in the country. One can experience rural lifestyle even within the Valley,” he said, “Indeed backpackers are low-spending tourists, but they contribute towards development of rural areas.”

He further said that the country has diverse needs, so, diverse tourists are needed for Nepal.