We are in desperate need of rebranding our country, especially after COVID 19. Even the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) says only rebranding the nation can attract tourists after the pandemic. The government and NTB should have a strategy to use this expedition in rebranding our country in the world

The successful ascent of one of the most dangerous mountains, K2, known as the Killer Mountain, on Jan 16, 2021 by Nepali mountaineers signalled a good start for our tourism sector this year. The winter ascent of K2 is itself a record, but it also disseminated the message of unity, nationality and team work.

Currently, as we combat COVID-19 with our limited capacity and resources, this sensational news generates a ray of hope and our commitment to climb mountains despite the unfavorable condition.

Mountaineering may be a favourite pastime activity for tourists, but it is a medium for purchasing the daily bread for Nepali mountaineers.

During the mountaineering season, Nepali mountaineers normally engage in backpacking, managing ice screws on the mountains, fixing rope and helping clients to ascend safely.

But this time, Nepali mountaineers created history in mountaineering.

They fulfilled their duty through the successful ascent of K2, but what about the government side? All the major media outlets worldwide extensively covered the news of the K2 ascent. With COVID-19 taking a toll of the tourism sector, we are in great need of such an event having the capacity to attract world attention.

Although K2 is not our mountain, its successful and historic ascent by Nepalis, however, drew world attention. Now, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA), Nepal Tourism Board(NTB) and Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA) should work together to capitalise on this historic achievement for tourism development.

Every sector has its fans, followers and admirers. K2 climber Nims Purja told journalists on their return to Kathmandu that K2's ascent in winter was like winning the football World Cup or a gold medal in the Olympics for the mountaineering community.

News of the ascent was read by millions of people interested in mountaineering, due to which the team members have become stars overnight.

The time has, thus, come to use these mountaineering stars for the promotion of our mountain tourism.

We have seen Bollywood stars being used in the promotion of Indian tourism, then why can't we do the same? We are in desperate need of rebranding our country, especially after COVID 19.Eventhe World Tourism Organisation (WTO) says only rebranding the nation can attract tourists after the pandemic.

Now we have additional historic news to share along with other promotional materials in the world tourism market. The government and NTB should have a strategy to use this expedition in re-branding our country in the world.

In 2014, Indonesia Tourism Board appointed Jackie Chan and Richard Gere as tourism ambassadors for tourism promotion.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was tourism ambassador for Spain in 2014. There is a trend of appointing international celebrities as tourism ambassadors to attract tourists from their countries. Dubai Tourism Board succeeded in attracting Indian tourists after it appointed Shahrukh Khan as its tourism ambassador.

The audience given by the Pakistani President to the team members of K2 expedition shows the importance of this historic ascent.

It would not be surprising if the tourism authority of Pakistan appoints these members as their tourism ambassadors. Before it is too late, a quick decision from our government side is urgent.

NMA sent a positive signal through the announcement of Nims Purja as its Goodwill Ambassador.

Probably mountaineering is the only sector in which we can compete with the world due to the presence of world-class mountaineers. Purja is notable for having climbed all 14 Eight Thousanders in a record time of six months and six days.

He also holds the record of climbing Everest, Lhotse and Makalu in 48 hours.

Another famous mountaineer Mingma Gyabu Sherpa is the youngest person to climb all the fourteen 8,000m peaks. He also holds the Guinness World Record of the title "fastest time to climb Everest and K2".

We failed to capitalise on the popularity of the snow leopard, late Ang Rita Sherpa, late Sungdare Sherpa and late Babu Chhiri Sherpa, but this should not repeat now.

We lack resources to appoint world-class movie artistes or players as tourism ambassadors.

Every mountaineer in the world would be interested to hear about their mountaineering experience, their sorrows and moments of fun. It is the turn of the government to identify their skills, and use their popularity in favour of our tourism development.

More effort with a concrete plan is needed from the Tourism Ministry and NTB for the promotion of our tourism. The presence of the mountaineers, their talk-shows, presentations and screening of documentaries at tourism fairs will definitely attract thousands of mountaineers, people and tour operators.

Proper promotional campaigns in the international media and social media by focussing on the presence of these mountaineers at the tourism fairs will help attract tourism entrepreneurs to our stall.

Their active presence in the B2B session and interaction with the Nepali mountaineers will definitely build a conducive environment for our tourism promotion.

The use of mountaineers in tourism promotion can also be taken as recognition of their achievement in mountaineering. It will help develop their professionalism while making them feel that they had served the nation in a different way.

This can be possible only through the joint efforts of the government, private sector and mountaineers to reposition our country in the world tourism market after COVID-19.

As Purja mentioned at the felicitation programme organised by the Prime Minister's Office, ' If we unite, we conquer. If we divide, we fall'.

Sindurakar is former Chief Administrative Officer of NMA

A version of this article appears in the print on February 17, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.