Will Nepal be able to meet its goal of drawing million visitors this year?
Kathmandu, November 24
Did the government set its sight too high when announcing the plan in 2011 to draw a million foreign visitors to the country every year?
It would seem so as the set target may not be met this year as well. The flow of foreign tourists coming to Nepal had been encouraging until last month and tourism officials were optimistic about meeting the one-million goal this year. However, security concerns related to the elections in recent days has been dissuading tourists, according to tourism entrepreneurs.
Moreover, the Embassy of the United States in Nepal recently issued a security alert targeting US citizens urging them to be vigilant and avoid polling locations, political party offices, candidate rallies, and other election-related events in the days before, during, and after the elections.
2017 (till Oct-end)
“Review your personal security plans, monitor local news stations for updates and maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to enhance your personal security,” the US Embassy has urged its citizens in a statement.
Vinayak Shah, spokesperson for Hotel Association Nepal (HAN), opined that foreign tourists might be discouraged to visit Nepal in such circumstances. “The government should rightly issue a notice ensuring security to foreign tourists in the country,” he said.
Shah believes that Nepal can still draw one million tourists this year if the government timely conveys the message to potential foreign tourists that they are secure in the country.
“However, the government’s failure to assure foreign tourists that they will be safe in the country could encourage them to cancel their scheduled visit to Nepal thereby hitting the country’s target to draw one million tourists,” said Shah.
As per statistics of the government, 803,092 foreign tourists had visited Nepal in 2012 — the highest annual number of foreign tourists that the country has received so far. Foreign tourist arrival has been dwindling ever since.
Data show that 797,616 foreign tourists visited Nepal in 2013 and 790,118 in 2014. Foreign tourist arrivals dropped sharply to 554,747 in 2015 following the devastating earthquake. Tourist arrivals recovered slightly in 2016 as 729,550 foreigners visited the country that year.
However, hinting towards a sign of recovery in the domestic tourism industry and taking the country nearer to its annual target of one million foreign tourists, almost 752,000 foreign tourists have already visited Nepal till October-end this year.
Government officials also believe that the recent security concerns targeting the elections might create negative perception among tourists planning a trip to Nepal. “We are optimistic that the first phase of provincial and parliamentary elections will conclude in a peaceful manner. If the first phase election slated for Sunday is peaceful, this will give message to tourists that the second phase of election will also be peaceful, which will ultimately not hamper the flow of foreign tourists,” said Deepak Raj Joshi, chief executive officer of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).
Though foreign tourist arrival target for November has been affected slightly following security concerns, Joshi informed that foreign tourists have not cancelled their travel bookings for December.
The government had set a target to draw at least 150,000 foreign tourists in November and 100,000 in December, thereby achieving the country’s target to draw one million tourists annually.
“If the situation does not deteriorate further, we are still closer to the goal of drawing one million tourists. However, the next two-three days are crucial for us as it reflects the manner in which the second phase of parliamentary and provincial elections will be held,” Joshi said.