TOPICS : Tourism: An integrated approach

Tourism sector is the second biggest contributor to Nepal’s economy after agriculture. Due to Nepal’s topographical features and climatic variations, it has been able to establish itself as one of the attractive destinations in the world. Within a range of 190 km, three different varieties of climate, namely hot (Tarai), cold (Hills) and very cold (Himalayas) are found, which make Nepal unique.

Tourism industry, due to its very nature, is considered a ‘smokeless industry’. It is the only industry which does not harm the environment and natural resources but rather conserves them.But Nepal has not not been able to extract full benefit from this sector. Nepal’s constraints might be broadly grouped into intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Extrinsic factors include strikes, bandhs and lack of effective promotion; whereas intrinsic factors comprise, among other things, shortage of both quality and quantity of tourists, limited number of destinations (Pokhara, Kathmandu, Lukla etc), lack of coordination among tourism entrepreneurs and absence of a viable tourism policy.

The number of tourists visiting Nepal this year is expected to increase to over half a million, more than the arrivals during Visit Nepal Year, 1998. Tourism sector has immense potentiality. If the constraints plaguing tourism industry can be minimised, the industry is likely to emerge as ‘the growth engine’ of national economy.The government has recently launched programmes like ‘Send a Friend Home’ and is rewarding ambassadors who can send home the maximum number of tourists. Strikes, bandhs and illegal taxes are other hindrances. Strikes and bandhs should not impede tourism industry. The industry should be declared a peace sector.

As far as intrinsic factors are concerned, we can do a lot more to make things better, given the necessary political commitment. The quality and quantity of tourists should not be a matter of big concern if we can minimise intrinsic constraints. Harmonious atmosphere among entrepreneurs can be created through effective co-ordination in an atmosphere of free competition in a market-driven economy. The main problem is that a large number of places remain unexplored. Government plans and policies have not been directed towards exploring virgin areas and entrepreneurs are confined to limited spaces. For instance, many tourists visit Pokhara but they limit their visit to only a few places like lakeside, Sarangkot and other surrounding areas. They should also be encouraged to visit places like Tanahu, Palpa, Gulmi, Pyuthan, Bhairahawa and Lumbini.

Nagarkot is considered a hill-station and tourists spend a considerable amount of time there. If Nagarkot can be developed as a hill-station, why cannot Palpa or Gulmi? Tourists visiting Lumbini will stay at Palpa and/or Gulmi if we provide proper guidance and facilities. But for that to happen, an integrated approach is necessary. Now we should plan in such a manner that Pokhara and Lumbini can be developed simultaneously.