Thursday, 1 June, 2023

Post-COVID Approaches To Nepal’s Tourism

Dr. B. P. Badal

Every cloud has a silver lining. There is always another hope in life. Waiting for the next tide in journey of humanity is life, but time and tide wait for none. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to be receding gradually and the risk of danger zone is almost ended. However, a high level of awareness is necessary as the risk is still high. With a high level of health precaution, maintaining sufficient physical distance, it is the best time to restart the tourism industry. The most sensitive industry in the world is tourism. It is directly related to human psychological stands of security, happiness, learning through exploration, and peace of mind. Thus, responsible tourism must be tourist-friendly. New tourist destinations are opening. There is increased enthusiasm of people to hang around. Before the current pandemic, domestic tourism in Nepal was increasing fast. It can now resume as people are visiting new and exciting places day by day. Our tourism sector must be able to grab this opportunity.

Nepal is a land-linked, a sandwiched country between two Asian giants -- China and India. China has 1.402 billion people while India is home to about 1.38 billion people. The gross domestic product (GDP) per capita income of China is US$10,500 as compared to India’s US$ 2,000 per year in 2021. The population of Nepal is about 30 million and the country’s GDP per capita income stands at 1030 annually. In such a situation, if Nepal can invite just 1 per cent Chinese (1.4 million) and the same segment of Indian population (1.3 million), we can easily host 2.7 million tourists.

People want to visit secure places avoiding any kind of risk. So security is most important component of tourism. Seeking happiness is their purpose of visit. What are the products of happiness in Nepal? Cleanliness, sanitation, food, gastronomy, and entertainment are other important factors luring tourists who are looking for happiness. Nepal must be a civilised – perfectly honest, hospitable, and clean country. If we teach school children properly, we can miraculously make Nepal a civilised and perfectly clean country. Nepal is still a virgin land for exploration. We have to focus on professors and students of Indian and Chinese universities for research trips. Of course, people need peace in mind. Nepal is the land of peaceful magnificent Himalayas and centre of Hinduism and Buddhism. Every Hindu visits Pashupatinath and every Buddhist visits Lumbini once in a lifetime for peace of mind and spirituality. Because the 3rd largest religion Hinduism has 1.35 billion followers and the 4th largest religion -- Buddhism -- has 535 million followers worldwide. Nepal could be a must-see destination for them.

If we can invite only one million tourists from among them, we can welcome about 3.7 million travellers annually. Butler’s theory of Tourism Area Life Cycle (TALC, shows six stages of tourism development-- exploration, involvement, development, consolidation, stagnation, rejuvenation, and decline. Thus this situation will be a new point of strategic planning for different econometric models of tourism development in Nepal. The impact of the pandemic is still being observed. High precautions are recommended. However, the transportation system of Nepal is facing challenges in maintaining physical distancing.

It is sad to note that oftentimes domestic flights are not reliable due to weather and other factors. Bus passengers are found facing hassles. Even street vendors seem to be causing nuisance to tourists. The haphazard dumping of garbage is still a common practice. Street protests have been another major problem causing disturbances to every sector. As a sensitive sector, tourism suffers the most because of such activities.

No sector can thrive without ending the unwanted strike culture. Philosophy and civilisation guide society. The supreme spiritual text of Hindus, the Veda, was composed in Vyas Municipality of Tanahu district. It means that Hinduism was originated in Nepal in one way or the other. Similarly, as Buddha was born in Nepal, the country holds much importance in terms of Buddhism. In general, scientific moral approaches of humanity are guided by the philosophy.

The Nepali community is definitely guided by Hinduism and Buddhism. But political activities seem to be in line with conflict philosophy of Karl Marx. However, Karmayoga of Materialism and Bhaktiyog of socialism both are equally interweaved in Nepali society by the philosophies. Peace, yoga, meditation, and practice of Bhagavadgeeta are the basic foundation of Nepali society. Dharma is for the betterment of inclusive society and federalism. Even Dharma has to follow the rules of the nation. Thus all political leaders must follow the rule of law, good governance, and the constitution. Tourism can thrive only when there is peace in any destination.

The political leadership must prioritise tourism and act towards taking this vital sector to a new height. Once this country has durable peace, there will be a good inflow of international tourists into the country. The increase in the number of domestic and foreign tourists is sure to open doors to investors and entrepreneurs from different parts of the world. This will generates more income, employment, and tax revenue for the country’s development. Tourism is hospitality. A single smile can win the world but the smile must be genuine, adorable, innocent, and truly hospitable. Tourism really brings happiness to all of us.

(The writer is a tourism expert.