Tourism entrepreneurs left biting their nails

Kathmandu, February 16

The outbreak of coronavirus has already started affecting the Visit Nepal 2020 tourism campaign, as evident by the drop in number of foreign tourist arrivals in the first month of this year.

However, the government has not done anything concrete to cope with the effects of the coronavirus on the campaign and the entire tourism sector.

Instead of exploring options to compensate the loss that the country is and will face due to this epidemic, the government has so far remained a mute spectator, seemingly simply waiting for the outbreak to be controlled and things to normalise.

A total of 67,020 tourists from different countries visited Nepal in January this year — 33 per cent less compared to inflow of foreign tourists in January of 2019 when Nepal had recorded arrival of 91,793 foreign visitors.

Government officials have admitted that the primary reason for the drop in the inflow of tourists in January was due to the rapid spread of coronavirus in China, which is Nepal’s second largest market for tourism. However, they have not executed any plan to cope with this situation and ensure the success of Visit Nepal 2020 tourism campaign, which primarily aims to bring in two million tourists this year.

“We plan to explore and promote Nepal’s tourism in various other countries, such as Japan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and other South East Asian nations to compensate the fall in number of Chinese tourists. However, the coronavirus outbreak has started affecting the tourism industry globally and in such a context, seeking new market for tourism is complex,” said Dhananjaya Regmi, chief executive officer of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).

As per him, a few Indian media have disseminated false news that coronavirus has spread in Nepal. “Thus, the first thing we should do is to make the Indian and other tourists across the world aware that Nepal is free from coronavirus,” he added.

Regmi informed that all Nepali embassies across the world have been asked to convey the information that coronavirus has not spread in Nepal. “Along with the embassies, all tourism stakeholders should first relay through their channels that coronavirus is not a problem in Nepal,” he said.

Meanwhile, hoteliers informed that occupancy in major hotels across the country is less than 30 per cent owing to drop in number of foreign tourists. “As the government has failed to promote Nepal as a coronavirus-free destination, tourists are increasingly cancelling their visits to Nepal. If the government fails to take appropriate measures, the coronavirus issue will massively affect the country’s tourism industry and the campaign,” said a hotelier, seeking anonymity.

However, officials at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation said that though coronavirus and its impact on Nepal’s tourism is an issue to be discussed, the epidemic may not leave an extreme impact on the tourism campaign.

“We expect the coronavirus to be controlled soon. Thereafter we will intensify promotion in China itself,” said Rudra Singh Tamang, spokesperson for the ministry.