Saturday, 25 March, 2023

COVID-19’s Adverse Impact On Tourism

Saphalta Shrestha


We are in the midst of a global pandemic caused by COVID-19 where people are struggling to stay safe and alive. Although the virus has not spread like in the Western countries in Nepal, rapid tasting is necessary to control this disease. Despite limited resources, facilities and health personnel, the government authorities are contributing their time to protect the civil society from the corona virus.
Having said this, we cannot deny the fact that the lockdown has badly affected the people whose survival depended on wages of daily toiling. Despite the government promise that ‘no one will stay hungry or die from hunger’, the issue of people struggling with every day meals have still remained sensitive. There are numerous political parties and organisations that have been working with the motto of helping the citizens but their efforts on this pandemic to give back to the society and live up to their philosophy can hardly be seen. The distribution of relief packages has been a medium of cheap popularity rather than it actually been done with moral intentions. In times like this, members from different political parties could help in this situation voluntarily.
In the time when we need to think and advocate about the short-term and long-term solutions for the problems arising from the lockdown, it is very unlikely for the politics of Nepal to become a subject of discussion and the political leaders to be busy finding ways to capture power. The fact that the leaders only being concerned about their personal interest and pursuance of power while the county is in the middle of alarming health situation is quite distressing for the people.
After the political change and re-establishment of democracy in 2046 BS, Nepal has not had a one-man government for a maximum of two years. Because of the lack of trust and cooperation among the political parties and its leaders, the doctrine of stable government is always at crossroads in Nepali political scenario.
According to the Constitution of Nepal, 2072, vote of no-confidence motion against the government cannot be raised until after the completion of two years of the appointment of the PM and the first vote of confidence passed from the parliament. Since it has been two years of the appointment of the PM, the leaders are seen to suddenly be engaged to change the government leadership. The constitution provides to change the government in case the government conducts immoral acts that affect the society. However, judging from the works done so far, it does not seem that such a situation has been created at all.
The development of the country requires legislation and policy formation for which the government spent the first year and from the second year, the developmental programmes had started. However, the sudden pandemic has halted the developmental activities. In this critical situation created by the pandemic, it would be better to mobilise the general public and cadres for the development works rather than pursuing power conspiracy.
According to the reports of International Labor Organisation (ILO), One hundred and sixty crores people are going to be unemployed because of the COVID-19 whereas, International Food Organisation (IFO) predicts that there could be food crisis in upcoming days if it continues to go like this. Moreover, The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that the world's economic growth rate will be only three per cent and that a country like the United States will have to bear the brunt of negative economic growth. Experts say the post-1930s economic downturn in the United States and the post-World War II economic downturn in the world will cause serious economic problems for countries like Nepal. During this critical situation, the leaders have to focus on uplifting the living standards of the people.
The country's economic activities have come to a standstill and while we can assume that the industries and factories will re-open and take the market after lockdown, it is estimated that it will take a few years for the improvement of Nepal's tourism sector, an important sector as foreign exchange earner, to come back to normal.
It seems as though the people who have become owners and self-employed by investing the smallest capital in the tourism sector would have to flee from this sector. Relief packages have been announced to save businesses and workers in other parts of the world: USD 400 billion in the UK, USD 50 billion in France, USD 220 billion in Spain, USD 77 billion in Australia, USD 30 billion in Sweden, USD 12 billion in New Zealand, USD 70 billion in Singapore and USD 550 billion in the United States.
Entrepreneurs have started saying that they are not in a position to continue their business if this situation continues to persist. Some small countries, whose main source of income is tourism, have resorted to strategies to protect businesses and workers by seeking loans and grants from foreign governments if the state's resources are not enough.
In this case, the tourism entrepreneurs have not made ambitious demands, only to facilitate the management of workers and professional by creating job retention fund. Issuing directives to keep the labours on unpaid leave for sometime and employ workers as the tourism business picks up speed, as well as to facilitate bank interest rates and rescheduling loans could be done so that the Nepal’s tourism entrepreneurs can pick up the base to sustain in the industry. Similarly, since most businesses are operated on rental and lease property, the state should also try to reduce those rental and lease amount until the situation of tourism industry revives.
Tourism sector has already suffered a huge loss and it is going to take quite a while to restore the industry in Nepal. It is necessary to manage the stimulus plans to promote domestic tourism before time is normal for foreign visitors to come.

(The author is a BALLB fourth year student at Kathmandu School of Law.)