Nepal | October 30, 2020

EDITORIAL: Review the provision

The Himalayan Times
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No foreign tourist will visit Nepal when one has to stay in hotel quarantine for one week before setting out for trekking or mountaineering

The mandatory provision requiring a visiting foreign tourist to stay in hotel quarantine for one week before setting out for a trek or mountaineering is impractical, and it will not help promote tourism activities when the number of coronavirus cases is still on the rise in the country.

The concerned ministry, stakeholders and policymakers should have held extensive discussion on the issue before reaching such a decision. The entire tourism industry is in a downward trend all throughout the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Less numbers of people are travelling all over the world for fear of the disease, causing huge losses to the airlines, hotel and tourism industries, pushing millions of people out of their jobs. Against this backdrop, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation needs to come up with a practical approach to attract visitors with attractive packages so that they visit Nepal and stay for a longer period than they used to before the coronavirus hit the country. This provision will be applicable to those tourists travelling to the country for trekking and mountaineering, the activities which take place in remote parts of the country, where the disease has affected the least compared to the densely populated urban centres. The stakeholders have asked the ministry to review it.

No tourist would like to stay in hotel quarantine for seven days, nor would s/he be able to afford the additional cost incurred. As per the World Health Organisation’s health protocol, a foreign traveller needs to produce a negative PCR test report conducted in the country of origin, not more than 72 hours before they board a flight and along with papers proving that one has Covid-19 insurance worth US$ 5,000. This should suffice for a traveller wishing to visit Nepal, where tourism activities have come to a grinding halt for the last six months. He or she can have their PCR test conducted in Nepal at their own expense if they have any doubt about their health condition. However, the ministry’s mandatory provision of getting an insurance cover against the virus worth Rs 100,000 to a Nepali support staffer or a guide involved in trekking or mountaineering is a welcome move. This provision will give a sense of security to the Nepali staffers who are working with foreigners by risking their life due to the coronavirus.

A large number of tourists visit Nepal for trekking, and mountaineering is popular even during the autumn season. But who will come to Nepal for short treks of one week or a fortnight when one has to stay in hotel quarantine for at least a week? This strict provision may help some hotels in the urban centres in Kathmandu or Pokhara to run their business for sometime. But it will not help promote tourism activities at the major tourist destinations, especially in the rural and mountainous areas. Most foreign tourists come to Nepal for sight-seeing, rafting, trekking and mountaineering. The tourism ministry and concerned stakeholders must develop special packages so that a large number of tourists can be attracted to visit Nepal at affordable cost even during the coronavirus pandemic.

Fair price shops

With the Dasain festival just round the corner, fair price shops are springing up at different places of the capital from Thursday. The Food Management and Trade Company (FMTC) in association with the Dairy Development Corporation and Salt Trading Company are setting up the stalls to sell goods like rice, sugar, salt and ghee at subsidised rates. Last year, there were 73 such outlets across the country, but this year, the government is undecided about opening such shops outside the valley due to the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases.

There is a tendency on the part of the business community to create artificial shortages during the festival time and swindle the poor consumers. So these fair price shops run by the government are necessary to keep prices stable in the market. It is not without reason that the FMTC is purchasing about 3,000 goats and mountain goats for Kathmandu this festival season. Their meat will not make even a small dent in the total demand, but it will certainly keep business persons from engaging in mischief. Perhaps, the time has come to have permanent government-run fair price shops across the country that will sell particularly edibles.

A version of this article appears in print on October 01, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

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