Call to prioritise infrastructure development

Due to poor connectivity, even tourists from India and China are staying away

Kathmandu, May 24

Tourism stakeholders have urged the government to prioritise tourism infrastructure development in the budget for the next fiscal year.

Despite its historical, cultural and natural attractions, Nepal is still struggling to attract a large number of tourists due to lack of infrastructure.

“Especially due to lack of road and air connectivity, tourists are being diverted to other countries,” said Khum Bahadur Subedi, senior vice-president of Trekking Agencies’ Association of Nepal.

Stating that the government’s commitment through the first federal budget to invest in infrastructure development has been limited to paper, he said, “The number of visitors to Nepal would be much higher, if only the condition of our roads was better and the air connectivity wasn’t so expensive.”

As per Hotel Association Nepal, the country has a capacity of handling around 2.5 million tourists annually.

Owing to Nepal’s poor infrastructure, even tourists from neighbouring countries are staying away, say entrepreneurs. “Since Chinese and Indian visitors make a significant portion of tourists to Nepal, improving our road conditions is crucial if we are to tap the full tourism potential of the country,” said Sunil Shakya, president of Pacific Asia Travel Association Nepal Chapter.

He said due to lack of proper infrastructure, it would be difficult to make the Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign a success. “So, the government must allocate budget for development of tourism infrastructure, with a strict completion deadline,” he said.

He further stressed on the need for allocating budget for timely completion of Gautam Buddha International Airport, Pokhara Regional International Airport and Nijgadh International Airport.

Prachanda Man Shrestha, former CEO of Nepal Tourism Board, opined that the country should also focus on introducing new destinations and developing those destinations as tourism hubs. “The next budget should allocate funds for destination development activities. If we are able to offer a variety, tourists will be encouraged to visit again and again,” he added.

He also emphasised on the need to separate jurisdiction of different layers of the government. “The local governments must be given the ownership of developing destinations, while the federal government should just guide the process,” he added.

Meanwhile, Senior TAAN Vice-president Subedi said the issue of charging unnecessary tourism taxes should be sorted out through the budget. “Local governments are levying rampant tourism fees, while national parks are levying charges without holding any discussion with entrepreneurs,” he said. “This has inconvenienced both tourists and entrepreneurs.”

Entrepreneurs have also highlighted the need to allocate budget to draw investment in tourism sector, along with tourism promotion in South East Asia.

This year, the Ministry of Finance has provided a budget ceiling of Rs 21 billion to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation.