Tourism potential It can be an engine of growth

Ram Chandra Subedi

The World Tourism Organisation defines an international tourist as anybody who visits another country for more than 24 hours, but less than one year, irrespective of travel purposes. Travellers staying for less than 24 hours are defined as excursionists.

Tourism has been considered an economic solution for developing countries like Nepal. Frequently named as the white industry, it is thought to be a vital development agent and a perfect economic alternative to more traditional primary and secondary sectors. International tourism, particularly from the developed to the developing countries, is seen as generating crucially needed foreign exchange and injecting the badly needed capital into the economies of developing countries.

Especially for small developing countries like Nepal with few primary resources and a small industrial base, tourism often constitutes the only viable economic activity within our means and our resource base. Employment and income generation, increase in foreign exchange and tax earnings, reduction of rural-urban migration, and balancing the trade account are the most often conceived goals of tourism development. Furthermore, significant socio-cultural and physical impact has emerged that seriously diverts attention from the potential benefits that tourism can bring to developing countries when planned and managed appropriately.

Although tourism doesn’t fit the pattern of traditional export industries, it does generate foreign exchange earnings through tourists’ spending in the destination country. Thus, tourism is an export industry where the product is produced and consumed within the country and the travel experience is exported.

Relaxed visa requirements or even the lifting of a visa can be a great facilitator in tourism development. It makes travelling to the country easier and is likely to encourage more cross-border traffic. The most important economic benefit of tourism is its employment generation potential. Tourism is usually considered a labour intensive industry. In developing countries with high unemployment this benefit may even outweigh other financial considerations. Governments also benefit directly from tourism that income tax from tourism employees and operators, accommodation and airport taxes, sales tax, and customs duties are among the primary income generators for governments. Then there are indirect tax benefits as the money spent by the tourist ripples through the economy and generates further income and spending with their associated taxes. Tourism entrepreneurs from Nepal and other countries recently called for joints efforts to boost regional tourism. Regional tourism also helps to boost tourism in developing countries.

Nepal possesses diverse natural endowments and culture, which will be an unforgettable memory for visitors coming here. In spite of remarkable natural assets, Nepal has not been able to extend its massage sufficiently in the global market. There is a need to strengthen national airlines to boost the number of international tourists coming in. Nepal is best suited for adventure tourism, as, for example, cricket is going to be popular among Asians, Nepal can be a better suited for sport tourism too.

Political instability and a decade long conflict have hit tourism sector badly. However, Nepal holds enormous potentials for both adventure and leisure tourism. It needs to look for regional tourist markets that the number of outbound tourists is growing every year. They, however, felt promotion and marketing of Nepal, as a popular tourist destination, is still insufficient. Nepal is rich in biodiversity and its huge area covers several climatic zones, ecosystems and sub-tropical forests that are home to a mystifying variety of flora and fauna. Almost 19 per cent of the total land accounts for its sixteen protected wildlife habitats. All these attributes make Nepal an encouraging destination for eco-tourism.

Tourism is now facing hardship because of increased political instability and negative publicity related to Nepal in the global market. Effective plans for confidence buil-ding are needed in the outside world, underlining the fact that Nepal is a safe place. Necessary infrastructure like roads, airports, terminals etc should be built, since they are basic facilities to become a transit point. We should also consider developing air transit points. Priority should be given to improving security. Without it, Nepal will not be able to achieve the required economic growth rate, millennium development goals and poverty reduction target.

The best way to bring the economy back to normal, the nation should practice transparency and accountability, and give due respect to internal economy. For this Nepal needs a stable government. Once security is improved a lot of market growth can take place, particularly in tourism and finance. To save the country’s major foreign exchange earner, all groups of Nepal should do everything they can to end the conflict.

Subedi is a Supreme Court advocate