Thursday, 13 June, 2024

Promoting Night-walk tourism


Mani Raj Lamichhane /Biranchi Poudyal

Bhaktapur is one of the potential tourist centres of Nepal where the heritage will enthral any human heart with its exquisite beauty. In past decades, the historic town of Bhaktapur has lured millions of international tourists but despite being declared the cultural capital of Nepal, very few tourists prefer to stay overnight in Bhaktapur. Due to lack of night-time tourist engagement and attractions, a large portion of incoming tourists prefer day-time sightseeing and seems reluctant to spend a night around Bhaktapur.
According to the data of FY 2075/76, a total number of tourists visiting to Bhaktapur was 2 58,588 (SAARC and China: 117372, Non-SAARC: 141,216), it was 227,614 in FY 2074/75 (SAARC & China: 99980 & Non SAARC: 127,634). Though there has been substantial increment in tourist arrivals with 13.61 per cent. However, it was found that less than 10 per cent of the tourists have stayed overnight in Bhaktapur and it is all because the city has not been able to showcase its divine heritage and cultural products during night time. It is believed that night time activities in Bhaktapur can increase length of stay of visitors.
Since Bhaktapur is a busy town, the daytime usually welcomes visitors from various cultural backgrounds roaming around the area. One can feel the pristine Bhaktapur in its organic form during night when its heritage-watch remains undisturbed by crowds. The combination of tranquillity and grandeur of ancient heritage at night will give very enchanting lifetime experiences to the international visitors. In the digitalisation era and photo culture, modern visitors are not much inclined to just sightseeing and capturing the scenes; rather, they desperately expect some unique experiences or feelings that they could take back home.
Fortunately, this December, Nepal Tourism Board and Visit Nepal 2020 Secretariat, in association with Bhaktapur Municipality and Bhaktapur Tourism Development Committee, has taken a new initiative by starting a campaign "Bhaktapur – by Night" – a night heritage walk’ in Bhaktapur with an aim showcase the grandeur of ancient city. The night walk covers the heritage route starting from Tourist Bus Park at Sano Byasi to Chyamasingh Bus Park. As the government is expecting to welcome around 2 million tourists in 2020, this incredible experience will surely provide an entertaining platform for tourists to enjoy the nightlife and cultural heritage of Bhaktapur. For the effective outcome from night-walk, the committee has hired 10 city-tour operators whose sole responsibility will be to inform visitors about the lifestyles of people and their cultural processions. On top of that, the city hosts numerous cultural activities during night time and those night-walking visitors can experience authentic Bhaktapur culture. The traditional music and dance performance at night will showcase cultural lifestyle and add more credibility to the image of Bhaktapur as the cultural capital of Nepal.
Similarly, the concerned authority should look upon for other tourism options to add more dimensions in this initiation so that it will open up other possibilities. Some engaging activities like night photography, star gazing, night cycling, night dance and cultural concert, night feast, street food, night food festival, night market/shopping, and so on will give more reasons for the visitors to visit the place. The main reason international tourists being reluctant to spend the night at Bhaktapur is due to the lack of engaging nightlife for them. By hosting these activities, the city can offer more choices for tourists and motivate them to stay overnight. Moreover, such additions will not only attract night-tourists but also contribute to the local economy via shopping, organic promotion and publicity, night photography, cultural branding via events/festivals, tourism awareness via cycling and mostly such activities will create a tourist-centric environment for Visit Nepal Year 2020.
Bhaktapur is home to the antique culture where one can feel the blend of traditional lifestyle in modern routine. The reflection of ancient custom can be seen in various forms like architectures, dressing, local culture, historical monuments etc. and the walk around this vibrant living city is the best way to experience vividness of Nepali culture.
Just imagine the magnitude of experience that tourists will get while beholding the artefacts and monuments of Bhaktapur Durbar Square at calm moonlight.
Along with the passing night, the monuments will speak out the stories of ancient Nepali life, and the daily chores of local inhabitants during night will let tourists see the Nepal lifestyle in its most natural form.
Though being implemented in Nepal now, the concept of night-tourism is not new to international societies, as many other places have already witnessed the perks of it. To cite one example, in response to unbearable heat during summer, the Tourism Development Corporation of Rajasthan launched the concept of night tourism in 2015, which was proven to be a boon for Indian tourism industry.
As per the data, more than 12 lakh tourists visited the monuments illuminated at night and the total revenue earned is Rs. 12.2 crore as against the total capital expenditure of Rs. 4.27 crore made on installation of lighting fixtures. Likewise, the Hainan province in South China has also introduced various forms of night tourism in its scenic spots, such as island camping, performances and boat trips, to encourage tourists to stay overnight.
Thus, Nepal needs to study the opportunities and challenges of it from other similar initiations and plan accordingly for night-tourism considering the potential flow of tourists during Visit
Nepal 2020.

(Lamichhane is director at Nepal Tourism Board while Poudyal is senior researcher at Pioneer Research Center Nepal)