Tuesday, 7 February, 2023
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OPINION

Need To Promote Mountain Tourism



Khilendra Basnyat

Nowadays, tourism has been gaining popularity around the world mainly because of the fast development in transport and communication. This is why many countries are seeking to reap the benefits of this sector to fulfill their resource gap. In fact, tourism is an economic activity in most countries. Apart from its direct economic impact, there are also indirect and induced impacts. For this reason, it is turning into the strongest service industry in the world to satisfy the human desire for travel.
Tourism has been flourishing in Nepal for the past few decades, contributing about five per cent to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Involved in this sector, apart from the Tourism Ministry including the various agencies such as the Department of Tourism and the Tourism Development Board, are hotels, travel agencies and surface and air transport services. However, it has not been able to gain as much as expected from this sector till now.

Invaluable asset
Mountains are often an unknown to most governments, development workers and all those who feel more secure on level grounds. To others, they offer adventure not only for tourists but also for scientists who are aware of the treasure of gene pools, biota and other resources. Nowadays, barren and inaccessible mountains have proved to be invaluable assets to some countries. The water rushing down from mountain lakes and glaciers have created the basis for producing hydropower in these countries. The harnessing of economical and plentiful electricity has made them possible to develop modern and competitive industries, producing alloys and other metals. In some countries, mountains have been used for pasture development, thereby promoting livestock development and their economies.
Nepal abounds with mountains, and mountain tourism plays a significant role in its economy. Tourists from many counties come here to seek peace and tranquility in lofty mountains. Nepal is a geographic centre of the Himalayas and constitutes the microcosm of the world's highest mountain chain. In Nepal, there are some snow-capped mountains which have been a source of inspiration for many tourists. Not only is this, of the world's highest peaks, it possesses eight which are always covered with snow.
Nepal has 8,848.86-metre high Sagarmatha (Mt Everest), the world's highest peak, which attracts tourists from around the world. The high Himalayas have been a big challenge to international climbers who aim at setting various world records in mountaineering. In the past, some efforts were taken to boost mountain tourism. To take an example, fifty per cent discount on visa fees for Sagarmatha summiteers each time they enter Nepal and the world peace climb, were some commendable steps in the right direction.
After fifty years of the first successful attempt of Sagarmatha, climbers from many countries scaled it through different routes. Some climbed several times just for the record and others for setting special records. Whatever route and whichever means Mt Everest has been the dream of future generation of mountaineers. The never ending queue of Everest summiteers indicate that high altitude mountaineering is the symbol and spirit of adventure and can be regarded to be the most hazardous undertaking.
Nepal still lacks a permanent contact point especially in areas that have a potential for attracting tourists in mountain tourism. This becomes relevant regarding the marketing strategy being adopted by our potential rivals in the south Asian region. Therefore, doing our best within our limits and reaching the right market with the profile of this country should be the highlights of our marketing policy. While formulation of plans and programmes for the betterment of mountain tourism, special attention should be paid to secure and develop human resources which have evaded the notice of plans and policy-makers from the very beginning.
It is particularly because of Sherpa guides the mountaineers from both home and abroad has been able to climb the mountains of Nepal. Actually, without experienced guides Everest expedition would have no meaning. The percentage of tourist trekkers is higher than pleasure tourists in Nepal. This makes us think, that Nepal has scope for developing tourism in areas such as expeditions, trekking, nature walk, village wilderness experiencing diverse culture, art and architecture.
Tourism as a unique and multi-disciplinary subject comprises a combination of economics and psychology variable; therefore, it does not fully follow the concept of demand and supply. Actually, there are many variables beyond our imagination which control the flow of tourists; however, most people do not know this fact till now. Hence, the concerned authorities should leave no stone unturned to find out such variables as far as possible so that more benefits can be accrued from this sector in the future.

Global culture
Today, there is a much talk about global culture due to technological innovation in information and communication. But what Nepal can earn is the rare and unique experience in mountain tourism. For this purpose there is a need to provide more relief package, funds and social security to mountaineers, guides and their families. Nepal's desire to increase tourist arrivals with a series of campaigns can be achieved if mountain tourism is also promoted. However, this is possible through the joint efforts of both the public and private organisations.

(Basnyat is a freelance writer.)