It is a double whammy for Nepal tourism. Things cannot get any better than this – a new luxury hotel in Chitwan priced at par with the ancient rates of the iconic Tiger Tops Jungle Lodge and the likely fruition of the travel traders’ dream of ‘Leave Travel Concession’ mass business. These twin developments should put Nepal tourism on high trajectory “Meghauly Serai opens booking for tourists” (THT, April 10, Page 15). First, Taj luxury brand’s re-entry into the country after their earlier bitter experience will surely rekindle hopes upon the beleaguered traders, especially from Chitwan, of the bright sunny days ahead. It will also encourage more local hoteliers to invest heavily on good products as the owners of the Taj brand has displayed supreme confidence of breaking-even on 700 million rupees investment in two years. Second, a ‘Ghumfir Barsa’ is in the offing in 2073 that will create a travel market of 82,000 civil servants at an estimated staggering revenue of 5.7 billion rupees. No wonder a trader is already counting his money at a daily family expense of Rs10, 000. However, the success of this programme, a carbon copy of India’s LTC, will depend solely on the government handouts. India has long been sending its civil servants on paid holidays dubbed Leave Travel Concession under which the revelers get full reimbursement on presentation of transport and hotel bills. There are several dos and don’ts in LTC including cap on expenses based on designation of the civil servants. In Nepal, the success of the ‘Ghumfir Barsa’ will depend solely on paid holidays. It is unlikely that a large chunk of Nepali civil servants will ever pay for holidays. If they are forced to travel they might look out for private sponsors to ‘gift’ them holidays, as gifts and presents of any amount seem perfectly legal in the country. Assuming that the government is paying for civil servants’ ‘Ghumfir’, a comprehensive set of rules will have to be put in place to make sure that the civil servants do not visit their homes or families or in-laws and do not cheat the incentive through fraud and fake bills. The simple way out of this would be for the government to work directly with the travel agents on prices, payments, destinations, itineraries, mode of transports, hotel bookings, tours, inclusions, exclusions. The civil servants should not be involved in planning, pricing or booking holidays. Their only job should be to submit themselves at an airport or a bus stop for travel.
Manohar Shrestha, Kathmandu
We have an easy solution to the country’s political leadership problem staring us in the face: Apply the same rules to politicians as we do to civil servants. Politicians should have to stand down from parliament at age 60 and would be prohibited from holding public office or political party positions after that age. The result would be fresh leadership from a younger generation.
Janardan Chand, Jhamsikhel