It goes without saying that tourism industry underpins Nepal’s economy like few others. Not only does Nepal relies heavily on tourists to earn foreign currency, but also the industry is one of the biggest employers in the country. According to latest official data, eight per cent of the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country is contributed by the tourism industry. However, owing to the coronavirus pandemic this sector has remained in shambles for long now. Where have all the restaurant workers who were made redundant in the wake of the pandemic gone? When will the hotel entrepreneurs be able to reopen their doors for the tourists? What are tourists’ guides and gallant Sherpas doing these days to earn their livelihoods at a time when the flow of foreign tourists has dwindled to nothing? It’s no brainer that they all are yet to see the light at the end of the tunnel and resume their works. That’s vital for this industry to revive and climb higher again.
However, tourism slump is not a problem unique to Nepal alone. Nor is it the only industry receiving the blow of the pandemic. The plight of major tourists hosting countries like Thailand, Spain, Italy, the UK, France and US, among others, is no different, if not worse. Data show us that the damage wrecked by coronavirus in Nepal is not that severe in comparison to many other countries. But that is not to imply that we are on the safe side. A few months back, when the pandemic was at its height and when most countries in the world were reeling from nationwide lockdowns, several Italian tourists deciding to stay put in Nepal rather than heading for their home country has sent a positive signal that the country is safer for tourists to visit than many others.
In addition to capitalising on such strengths, we’ve got to take several measures if we are to revive tourism to its former glory. Mass vaccination drive with the goal of inoculating entire vulnerable population, which is gathering steam at the moment, is a positive step in the right direction. The campaign has sent a message that the government is serious and is leaving no stone unturned to bring the pandemic under control. Second, at a time when the bickering political factions and opposition party are organising gathering after gathering in a show of force in disregard for social distancing norms, restriction of any sort that hinders tourism industry from emerging out of the pandemic should be put to rest. Third, the government, through its policy, shouldn’t obstruct the arrival of those foreign tourists who are carrying verified negative PCR test reports, among other verifications, with them and are therefore safe to enter the country.
Fourth, the tourism businesses, which are reeling from the losses and laid off their employees fearing prolonged shutdown, should be provided with financial resources as stimulus packages, making use of which they can rebuild their businesses and hire back their former employees. And the government should make sure that its rescue effort doesn’t further encumber the already-suffering enterprises. Never before in its history have the tourism entrepreneurs borne the brunt of losses as they are doing now. The government should do all it can to lift their spirit, to make feel them that it is standing by them. That way, they can feel that there is a government in the country where they can turn to when in need.