Kathmandu, July 9
The returns that Nepal will generate by hosting the International Indian Film Academy Awards will far outstrip the cost incurred in organising the event, as the buzz created by Bollywood celebrities will work as a high-impact marketing tool to promote the country’s tourism industry, according to Suraj Vaidya, the national programme coordinator for Visit Nepal 2020.
His statement comes at a time when the parliamentary International Relations Committee has directed the government not to host the show citing “inappropriately and unnaturally high cost of organising the event considering Nepal’s economic status”.
“Kathmandu Metropolitan City and Nepal Tourism Board will definitely have to spend money to host IIFA Awards. This is natural because the show is being used as a marketing tool to promote Nepal as an international tourist destination. You can’t expect to market a product for free,” said Vaidya, who is one of the members of the committee formed by the government to negotiate with Wizcraft International, the producers of IIFA Awards.
But that investment will yield handsome returns, Vaidya told THT over phone from France.
Nepal, according to Vaidya, is planning to produce at least 10 promotional video clips using Bollywood celebrities to promote Visit Nepal 2020. The country intends to double the number of tourist arrivals from one million to two million next year.
“This is just one of the proposals to enhance credibility of, and provide visibility to, our brand. We can ask for more, but unfortunately some of the people politicised the issue even before negotiations with Wizcraft International started,” said Vaidya.
Nepal is planning to host IIFA Awards, one of Indian cinema’s biggest annual global events, in August. The event is scheduled to be held in support of Kathmandu Metropolitan City and Nepal Tourism Board. The awards show, which attracts top Bollywood stars, is watched by tens of millions of people across the globe.
“Imagine the mileage Nepal’s tourism industry will get if celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan with millions of followers on social media tweet saying Nepal is a fantastic tourist destination,” said Vaidya, adding, “Celebrity endorsements are hard to ignore. Didn’t Nepal’s Muktinath and Janakpur get free publicity after Indian PM Narendra Modi visited those places?”
For now, the fate of hosting IIFA Awards in Nepal, however, hangs in the balance, as the government has courted criticism after the draft of the agreement to be signed between Wizcraft International and Nepali partners was leaked. The draft agreement states that the government will have to pay $4 million to the event organisers and bear other costs related to accommodation and logistics of around 4,000 guests and construction of necessary infrastructure. Many have said the money could be invested elsewhere where tangible results can be obtained.
“But tourism is also a priority sector for Nepal as it is one of the biggest generators of foreign income,” said Vaidya.
Many consider tourism sector a low-hanging fruit for Nepal as the country enjoys a lot of comparative advantage in this sector. Nepal generated foreign income of Rs 63.3 billion from tourism sector in the first 10 months of the current fiscal which is tad lower than Rs 78.5 billion generated through export of merchandise goods.
“If we can use events such as IIFA Awards as a tool to promote Nepal’s tourism, the country can generate lots of foreign income in a short period of time,” said Vaidya, adding, “Let thenegotiations on organising the show begin before dishing out criticism.”
IIFA Awards provides host destinations a $200-million media campaign that raises the profile of the country, increases tourist flow by 35 per cent to 50 per cent, and improves tourism yields through introduction of higher value tourists, according to IIFA. The event also provides event management training opportunity to young students and creates avenues for joint venture between filmmakers of India and the host destination. These benefits are exclusive of $35 million in immediate spending by event organisers and co-organisers and visitors who throng the host nation, according to IIFA.
A version of this article appears in print on July 10, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.