Hopeful signs

After a lull of several years, the tourism industry is now showing heightened activity. The premier hotels in the capital have most of their rooms already booked for the season. Tourism, which is one of the chief foreign exchange earners for the country, had witnessed a sharp decline in tourist arrivals, owing to years of violence and political instability. This hit the tourism sector hard, forcing many tourism-related businesses to close down. Despite Nepal’s reputation as one of the most tempting destinations, tourism suffered because frequent bandhs and strikes not only prevented the free movement of tourists and transport but also posed a serious security threat.

However, the tourism industry is not yet relieved of all its worries. The current encouraging signs are only the beginning, but much will depend on the future course of the peace process. The shortage of international flights in and out of Kathmandu just ahead of the onset of the tourist season represents something of a setback, which is due to the grounding of both jets of the national flag carrier, NAC. There is also the need to increase the number of tourist destinations, as huge potential exists in this chiefly mountainous country. Much ought to be done to promote rural tourism, which would not only boost the industry itself but also help in the economic uplift of the rural poor. Priority should also be given to increasing the average stay of tourists, as well as attracting more of the ‘quality’ tourists, the big spenders, rather than every Tom, Dick and Harry.