Kathmandu, June 2

Promotion of rural tourism in South Asia can play a vital role in the socio-economic development of the rural areas, as a majority of the member nations of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) have been facing the common challenge of alarming rural poverty.

A vibrant regional cooperation mechanism in the tourism sector was stressed during the SAARC Rural Tourism Workshop organised here today. Participants from the member states held discussions on easing visa processing for tourists among member nations, joint promotion of rural tourism in SAARC to lure more tourists from beyond the region, and design new products.

Rural tourism encompasses various natural and manmade activities, like homestay, agro tourism, farm-based holidays, adventure and other eco-friendly activities.

Inaugurating the workshop, Tourism Minister Ananda Prasad Pokharel, said that through joint initiative of SAARC countries, we can foster new products and uplift rural tourism through intra-SAARC tourists as well. He also talked about homestay facility offered in rural villages of the region. “Homestay, which is a model example of rural tourism in Nepal, has been playing a vital role in eco-friendly tourism promotion, rural poverty alleviation and natural conservation.”

Minister Pokharel further said that rural tourism is a key instrument in increasing mutual relations between people within the region and expanding bilateral and multilateral financial support.

He also said that there are a lot of sources of rural tourism in the region as it has enough potential of cultural, religious heritage and ancient sites.

Noting that the government has declared to observe ‘Visit Year 2016’ throughout the year for sustainable tourism development, he said that this would help the economic development in the region through carbon-free tourism.

Also speaking on the occasion, Director at the SAARC Secretariat Rita Dhital said that the workshop would give a platform to help promote tourism in the region through the exchange of the experiences of the region in this sector.

Likewise, Secretary of Tourism Ministry Prem Kumar Rai highlighted that Nepal government’s Tourism Policy, 2008, has given a special focus on promoting rural tourism for the sustainability of tourism and socio-economic development of the rural areas of Nepal.

The workshop was organised jointly by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation and the SAARC Secretariat. Participants from the member states spoke about their experiences in promoting rural tourism.

Mahat launches tourbiznepal.com

KATHMANDU: State Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Bal Bahadur Mahat, on Thursday launched www.tourbiznepal.com during an interactive programme on ‘Tourism in Media’. On the occasion, he spoke of the huge role played by the media in the tourism sector’s development and expansion. Journalists’ Association of Tourism-Nepal Chairperson, Devi Pant, said there were adequate possibilities for tourism industry’s development in Nepal. Thamel Tourism Development Council Chairman, Ram Sharan Thapaliya, said promoting tourism would create job opportunities and herald economic prosperity. He stressed on moving ahead by coordinating with media to achieve the goal.