If there is one country that holds immense tourism potential, it is Nepal. From the high Himalayas to the jungles of the Tarai plains teeming with wildlife, and from the scenic grandeur of its rolling hills to the rich cultural heritage of its inhabitants, Nepal has it all. Yet, although it has been seven decades since Nepal opened up to the outside world, it has not been able to attract many tourists nor have our earnings from their activities been high. If we really want to see tourism make a sizeable contribution to our gross domestic product (GDP), then the business-as-usual approach to luring tourists is not going to make much headway. There is a need to explore every avenue possible and not limit our tourism to mountaineering, trekking and cultural tours. The highly venerated spiritual leader, Sadhguru, who is on a pilgrimage tour of Nepal, has called on Nepali entrepreneurs to promote religious tourism as a key to building Nepal's economy. According to him, 400- 500 million Indian visitors would be able to afford a visit to this country for spiritual and religious purposes in the next 25 years, not to speak of such visitors from other countries. For this, he has suggested a Nepal-India tourism commission that will work to promote the tourism business, and see to it that it is not affected by political differences between the two countries.
There are too many travel, trekking and rafting agencies chasing too few tourists, hence the poor earnings from tourism
The Indian yogi is confident that tourism should be able to contribute 30- 35 per cent to Nepal in the next 10 years with the right policies, otherwise the country's potential will go to waste. Any Indian visitor who comes to Nepal, be it for pleasure, business or official work, makes it a point to have a darshan of the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu.
But Nepal has much more to offer, not only to Hindus but to followers of Buddhism as well, both inside and outside the Kathmandu Valley.
The Sadhguru had come to Nepal to go on a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash and the holy Mansarovar Lake in Tibet, the autonomous region of China, but was not granted permission due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So he had taken an arduous trek from Simikot of Humla district to Limi Valley, from where both Kailash and Mansarovar are clearly visible.
Despite its many tourism products to suit adventure, cultural and religious tourists, one begs the question, why is it that Nepal cannot lure tourists by the millions and high spenders? Tanzania, for instance, draws many more tourists to its game safari and Mount Kilimanjaro than Nepal, and it also makes much more money - $2.5 billion annually. Nepal can no longer afford to sell its tourism products for a song as in the past. There are too many travel, trekking and rafting agencies chasing too few tourists, hence the poor earnings from tourism. How can a bed and breakfast be had for just $6 in a fairly standard hotel at Thamel, Asia's highest concentration of tourism facilities where an ana of land is worth more than Rs 60 million? The Sadhguru is a man who speaks his mind out. If he is not very happy with the unbridled construction taking place in the name of development in the capital and elsewhere, then related stakeholders have something to ponder about if they want to push tourism to the next level.
President Bidhya Devi Bhandari on Saturday called the next session of the federal parliament for September 8, three weeks after the last session was prorogued on August 16. The last session the federal parliament was abruptly ended simply to issue an ordinance on the Political Party Act so that the disgruntled factions of some political parties could split with just 20 per cent members either in the House of Representatives or in their central committees. Taking advantage of the most controversial ordinance, the CPN-UML and Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal have severed ties with their mother parties, only to strengthen the coalition government, led by Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba.
Coalition insiders say the next session of the parliament has been called mainly to endorse the controversial MCC, a U.S. funded project on power lines lines and roads. There are as many as 16 ordinances pending in the federal parliament, which also need to be settled. The Deuba-led coalition has two objectives in calling the House session: Endorse the MCC by the parliament and scrap the ordinance on the Political Party Act so that other parties may not be able to use it to split from their mother parties.
A version of this article appears in the print on September 6 2021, of The Himalayan Times.