Economic development of Nepal rests primarily on four aspects. Among them agriculture is the first, upon which 90 per cent people are dependent for their livelihood. The second aspect is water resources, which holds tremendous potential for the development. Industry is considered the third aspect.
However, Nepal is a land-locked country in between two major industrial giants, India and China. The scope of Nepal being developed as an industrial giant depends largely upon the bilateral treaties and behaviour of these neighbours. The fourth aspect is the development of â€˜mines and mineral-based industriesâ€™, which needs huge investment.
Apart from them, tourism sector is the only solution to boost Nepali economy.
According to a report of the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), â€œOne incoming tourist in a particular country provides direct and indirect employment to nine other.â€
Till few years ago, people from remote areas used to migrate from hills to terai for the sake of livelihood, but it could be vice-versa. The increase in the number of tourists in these areas will create employment to the locals. We have experienced this trend before.
However, it is yet to be more organised to reap maximum benefits. Tourism accounts for 18 to 20 per cent of the total foreign currency earnings, which is more than 33 per cent of the total revenue.
The potential of tourism has yet to be exploited. Nepal is one of the most adventurous destination in the world. Apart from that its natural beauty is incomparable and its bio-diversity has no match in the world.
Culturally also, Nepal is the most revered and sacred place on earth. Lord Pashupatinath, Lord Buddha, the light of Asia, and Sita were born on this land. Nepal has 40 heritage sites within a distance of 20 km.
Worldâ€™s highest peak lies in Nepal and the best trekking routes are found here only. It offers the best white-water rafting in the world.
Nepal is also renowned for the best safaris. It has no dearth of products but the problem lies in its marketing. Even though, Nepal is the best tourist destinations in the world, it lags behind in marketing of its products and we have not been able to bring one million tourists.
Singapore, which has three million population, receives seven million tourists every year. There is no comparison between the product of Singapore and Nepal.
Nepal should aggressively market its products in India and China, the two neighbours with huge population.
At present the Indian tourists occupy 33 per cent of the total tourists visiting Nepal.
Therefore, we should concentrate our whole strategy on attracting more Indian and Chinese tourists. Since, China has already included Nepal in its tourist destination, China has become another most potential market for us.
For the last six years, tourism industry has faced an acute financial crisis as it faced tremendous fallout in tourist arrivals due to various causes. The tourist arrival in 1999 was 421188, while it went down to 277129 in 2005.
The image of Nepal has been badly tarnished over the last two years. To boost Nepalâ€™s image, the immediate steps the government should take the following measures:
a. Give high priority to tourism sector and implement the suggestions of high power committee.
b. The government should take immediate action to simplify the visa regulations. 15 to 30 days free visa will help increase the flow of tourists and their length of stay.
c. Although the government has given due recognition to the tourism sector as an industry, in practice, it has failed to give facilities enjoyed by other industries.
d. Government should strengthen Nepal Airlines Corp by involving private sector in the management of national carrier. At least three new aircraft should be immediately bought to solve the air-seat problem.
e. Let us take the example of India, it has already awarded â€˜export statusâ€™ to hotel industry, which provides number of facilities such as tax holiday on foreign currency earnings. Such facilities has been provided to carpet and handicraft industries in our country.
f. Nepal desperately needs a full fledged film-city to promote tourism. Nepalâ€™s unique beauty is admired by foreign film makers. They could be attracted by establishing big film studios with technical support.
(The author is the CEO of Hotel Association Nepal)