International events: Investment for tourism growth
About 17 Hollywood stars have already visited Nepal, but we have failed to capitalise on their visit. In most of the cases, their visits are kept secret, and we come to know only after they return. The government, NTB and other concerned agencies should use their visit in favour of our tourism while respecting their privacy
I just read a fairy tale in a I national daily about the high-profile tourists of 1970 having an expensive dinner at Bhaktapur Durbar Square, catered by a reputed five star hotel, doing breakfast at Lukla, lunch at Nagarkot and spending the night at Tiger Tops. Being associated with tourism for more than 15 years, I have not heard from entrepreneurs of such tourists.
India, China, the United States, United Kingdom and Sri Lanka were the top five countries from where we received the maximum number of tourists in 2018.
Among them, British and American citizens are considered to be high spending tourists. Substantial numbers of high spending tourists also come from France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Canada and the Netherlands.
Indian and China have also high-end tourists, but we fail to attract them. For example, the Indian film industry chooses European nations, Maldives and Malaysia as outdoor locations to shoot films, whereas Nepal is the most affordable destination. Indian actor Aamir Khan didn’t come to Nepal to shoot for the Coca Cola advertisement and was shot in a studio in India.
Our policy makers, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and other concerned stakeholders should dig out the reasons why we are unable to attract high-end tourists.
Hollywood film, The Beach, starring Leonardo Di Caprio was shot in 1999 in Phi Leh Island in Thailand.
Following its release, the number of national and international tourists to the island increased to 5,000 daily, which resulted in destruction of coral reefs, sea life and white sand, leaving an adverse effect on the local ecosystem. In May 2018, the Thai government decided to prohibit the island for visitors until 2021.
About 17 Hollywood stars have already visited Nepal, but we have failed to capitalise on their visit. In most of the cases, their visits are kept secret, and we come to know only after they return. The government, NTB and other concerned agencies should use their visit in favour of our tourism while respecting their privacy.
We have the bitter experience of cancelling the International Indian Film Academy Awards (IIFA) proposed in 2019. This award is considered to be one of the biggest annual global events of Hindi cinema.
It could have produced many benefits to the host countries like increase in Indian tourists, destination marketing and exposure for the organisation of such international events in the coming days. Serious concern shown by a parliamentary committee led to the cancellation of the ceremony.
The NTB also could not convince the public and parliamentarians for the US$ 4.5 that it had to provide to the organiser.
Failure gives more lessons than success, therefore, NTB should also not stay being its hands tight after these events were cancelled. It should start a series of discussions and
interactions with parliamentarians on the pros and cons of holding such events so that we can prove whether or not these events are important to us for the development of tourism.
Similar experience was faced during the show of Salman Khan, which was also postponed after threat from one of the political parties. Actually we could not understand the importance of such an international event, which can lure numerous Indian tourists to our country.
Another example we can take is the Indian Premier League Cricket 2020 (IPL Cricket) held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nepal being the nearest destination does not have a stadium of international standard, otherwise it would have been one of the stadiums for the tournament.
Thousands of Indians would have flocked to our country to watch the game followed by late night parties and gaming at the casinos, sight-seeing of mountains the following morning before returning to their country.
Just a two-day stay in Nepal can create ripples in our national economy. Here is an interesting facet. About 25,000 English fans chartered 110 flights to Russia to watch the UEFA Champions League 2008 between Manchester United and Chelsea played at the Luzhniki Stadium of Moscow, Russia.
Our inability to understand the importance of an international event like the Bryan Adams Concert 2011 is the main reason for discontinuation of such programmes.
Programmes of international stars like Bryan Adams at least two or three times a year can attract global attention to our country. Allocation of budget may be needed to give continuation to these events to establish Nepal as an appropriate platform for international events to get returns in terms of tourism development, production of human resources, development of infrastructure and increment in foreign direct investment.
The global principle of business shows that we have to invest in order to have returns. Today’s political leaders have also invested two-three decades of their lives in politics since their college days. The current position which they have attained is their return on the investment which was made earlier. But we and our leaders are unable to understand and protest these events in the name of culture, language and originality.
Despite our good experience in adventure tourism activities, time has come to think about tourism from another aspect also. Development of tourism can play a good role in sustainable development, poverty alleviation and upgrading of economic status of our country. It is worthwhile to remember here the saying of the architect of today’s modern China, late Deng Xiaoping once said “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice”.
Sindurakar was a former Chief Administrative Officer at Nepal Mountaineering Association