Tourists’ security main challenge: Minister

Kathmandu, September 27:

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Prithvi Subba Gurung, said today that ‘ensuring security of the tourists’ is the main challenge facing Nepal’s tourism sector at present. He was speaking at a programme organised by the Society of Tourism and Environment Journalists (STEJ-Nepal) in the capital on the occasion of the World Tourism Day.

Commenting on ‘challenges and possibilities’ in Nepal’s tourism industry, Minister Gurung said, “Ensuring security of our guests, who are terrorised by the ongoing political activities, is one of the main challenges facing this sector.” “We have to look for new possibilities and do away with old policies that are now obstructing the tourism sector’s growth.” He also laid emphasis on ‘pilgrimage tourism’ and said a lot of tourists are now diverted to other SAARC and Asian nations due to these countries’ more relaxed policies.

Madhav Prasad Ghimire, secretary of the MoCTCA, said, “The most important thing is that there is no significant difference of opinion among the stakeholders in this sector, and that is why new possibilities can be explored.” By labelling tourism sector most crucial for economic growth, he said, “We must capitalise on our biodiversity and cultural heritage to take tourism to a greater height.” The main challenges, according to Ghimire, are infrastructure development, developing religious sites and building private-public partnership.

Speakers from the private sector were of the view that the government must play a facilitating role and relax the tax system to attract more tourists. “The government must focus on present difficulties and relax its rules. At a time when the government has not even been able to make the TIA more organised, what is the point of talking about 50 or 60 years plans,” Jyoti Adhikari, president of the Trekking Agents’ Association of Nepal, told THT.

On the other hand, Surendra Bir Malakar, president the Nepal Chamber of Commerce, stressed the need to attract more Chinese tourists as China has placed Nepal on the list of places to visit. He added, “Product development packages have to be developed and authorities concerned have to move ahead with commitment.”

Tourism Day awards

KATHMANDU: The government on Thursday gave away prizes to people and institutions, who have helped develop tourism in Nepal. At a programme organised at the Nepal Tourism Board on Thursday, the Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) was awarded for bringing home a maximum number of tourists and for reaching out to the rural areas. Yeti Travels was awarded for being the highest foreign currency earner and Radisson hotel was declared the highest foreign exchange earner. — HNS