Nepal | July 24, 2019

Why Nepal needs to host the IIFA?

Sumita Chakraborty, Editor, Stardust Magazine, analyses why Nepal should take a leaf from Belfast and open its eyes to the immense opportunities that the IIFA offers

Sumita Chakraborty
Recently, news filtered in that Nepal would soon be engulfed by the glitz and glamour of Bollywood. Supposedly, the 19th Edition of The International Indian Film Academy which has globetrotted to several prime countries and cities across the world would be now held at this pristine Himalayan country in August.

This event was to be in partnership with the NTB, the Film Development Board and Kathmandu Metropolitan City, and the budget for this three-day event borne by the Nepal Government supposedly ranged from a whopping $15-plus million to more.

A few days back, both the Nepal government and the IIFA had conceded that the IIFA would indeed be held in Nepal and a 17-member coordination committee helmed by the Nepal Minister of State for Tourism had been formed.

However, this move of the Nepal government of bringing the IIFA to Nepal and pumping in millions of dollars into it, garnered a lot of flak from Nepali people from all strata. More so from many stalwarts from the ailing Nepali Film industry which accused the government of having a ‘lackadaisical attitude’ towards them and yet injecting in “ridiculous” amounts into the IIFA which according to them were already cash rich and did not need support from the Nepal government.

And the immense criticism, social media trolls and flak crescendo-ed into a vociferous protest resulting in the Parliamentary International Relations Committee directing the government to immediately halt all work related to organising the 19th International Indian Film Academy Awards in Nepal.

In its decision, the House panel said the draft agreement to be signed between the government and IIFA organiser Wizcraft International Entertainment would hamper Nepal’s independence, freedom and identity, and adversely affect Nepal’s cultural liberty and national interest.

“The Nepal government’s financial liability mentioned in the draft agreement is inappropriately and unnaturally high, considering the country’s economic status,” read the panel’s decision.

Perhaps the criticism and flak was indeed justified as the home-grown Nepali Film Industry could do with a hefty boost from the Nepal government to pick itself up. But halting work on the IIFA or signing petitions against hosting it slammed many doors of opportunities for Nepal and more so its tourism segment in totality.

Incidentally, the last big event Nepal had hosted was the Bryan Adams show way back in 2011. So for now, the IIFA touted by many would have been the best thing to happen to Nepal’s crippled tourism sector which had been badly hit after the 2015 devastating earthquake.

So why does Nepal need the IIFA?

Let’s take a look at Belfast of Northern Ireland… Another very picturesque country in the Emerald Isle…very similar to Nepal. The hit series – Game Of Thrones was shot in many of its picturesque locales. At that point of time, there were a pocketful of stragglers who claimed too many strangers into Belfast would spoil the pristineness and privacy of this tiny Irish country. Belfast then was reeling under the aftermath of its long struggle with the IRA. Their tourism sector was badly hit and the economy extremely poor.

Voila, Game Of Thrones stormed the globe and ended up becoming the foremost hit series in the world. And suddenly, Belfast became a buzzing hub for curious tourists who wanted to see where the hit series was shot. It not only injected a boost into the tourism sector but pumped in a record millions into the economy. Suddenly there were hundreds of jobs created and available, and the country flourished as visitors pumped in more than 2.5 million pounds into the economy everyday. A record breaking two million hotel rooms were sold in 2017 and double the number after that, year after year and mind you, the popularity didn’t seem to wane.

Northern Ireland too cleverly weaved many tourist tours into the Game of Thrones mania and today, it has many spectacular tourism events like the Game of Thrones exhibition in Belfast, The Winterfell Tours, Game Of Thrones Tapestry at the Ulster Museum, The Dark hedges tour etc which are wielding immense remunerations into the economy.

Likewise, if Nepal capitalised on the Bollywood fever, even though August tends to be a dry spell in terms of Nepal tourism, it would encourage thousands of die-hard Bollywood fans from across the globe to come to Nepal just for the IIFA.

Wizcraft International Entertainment, the IIFA Co-founder and Owner Andre Timmins further listed out in a media interview, the many benefits the hosts would receive which ranged from “global media publicity – an opportunity to leverage media coverage and raise the profile of Nepal as hosts to a major event and being an international tourist destination with approximately $150-200 million PR valuation annually. He emphasised, “Hosting IIFA raises the profile of Nepal with ‘lasting economic benefits’.”

While the investment into IIFA was certainly big, NTB CEO Deepak Raj Joshi, at a press conference earlier, had reiterated that the returns would be worth it as “the event is a platform for Nepal to promote Nepal as a tourism destination and boasts of the prospect of Nepal as a safe MICE tourism destination”.

But for all the buzz the IIFA created in Nepal, unfortunately, things have stalled for the time being. Will Nepal ever see the shiny Bollywood dream in its own vicinity? Well, for now, one is a little doubtful.

But if only Nepal takes a closer look at Belfast and realises the treasure trove of opportunities that the IIFA can throw up, perhaps it can dynamically change the face of its economy.

Perhaps it’s time for Nepal to just open up its eyes and mind, and see the opportunities ahead…

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