Expect not

Even as the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Pradip Gyawali was inaugurating a function marking the start of the “Visit Pokhara Year (VPY)-2007” at the Lake Side on Monday, the picturesque city was in the midst of a strike called by the disgruntled local transport workers protesting the ferrying of Nepali passengers by “tourist buses”. Thanks to the strike, the tourists who were on their way to Pokhara to celebrate the New Year were left in the lurch in the middle of nowhere along the Prithvi Highway. As of this writing, talks are on to settle the dispute and the Highway is open. But it will do little to either persuade the tourists — their New Year celebrations wrecked by failure of the authorities to settle ‘petty disputes’ — to prolong their stay or entice them to carry back home a good word about Nepal.

The VPY-2007 is a good concept. Besides Pokhara, it also aims to attract tourists to Lumbini, Tansen, Chitwan and areas around Pokhara. But strikes and bandhs are sure to hobble the year-long programmes. It was not long ago that restaurants workers in Pokhara had halted work demanding better pay. All efforts to promote tourism will come to a naught if those involved in the sector cannot find a better way to voice their disagreements than through strikes and closures. In this state of transition, it is not unusual for long-suppressed desires to manifest. But Nepal cannot expect the tourists to act as per its whims. If it cannot ensure them a good time, they might soon be packing for better destinations.