Tuesday, 7 February, 2023
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OPINION

Tourism In Trouble



Dixya Poudel

The coronavirus crisis has diminished tourism prospects around the world. Nepal too has had to deal with a tourism downslide due to the pandemic. In the pre-pandemic days, almost 250,000 people were employed in the tourism sector in Nepal. Now the nation has lost Rs. 34 billion in the tourism industry during the lockdown that has halted economic growth. And since the increasing threat of coronavirus, Nepal has been losing Rs. 10 billion each month in the tourism and aviation sectors. 
Currently I am in Pokhara which is a beautiful city nestled in a valley in Kaski district. Every time I am in Pokhara, I am won over by its charms. As always, this recent trip to the city has made me quite nostalgic. My childhood was spent in the city of Pokhara and every trip to this city is a trip towards the memory lane. The roads I walked to run errands to, the temples I visited, the beautiful sites, the friendly people and clean atmosphere all flow through memories in my mind.
I reminisce about my childhood and school years and wonder how time has flown by. I look around the city and find so many new changes. Now the pandemic has cast its shadows on the city as well and yet its residents are keeping up their optimism which is admirable. After the ease of lockdown, shops are cautiously reopened to business and people mill about with masks on and a measure of social distancing. Pokhara which used to bustle with tourists now faces a tough time with most residents in the tourism industry out of jobs.
Now that the pandemic has paused businesses in the aviation and tourism sector, the government is implementing relief measures such as concessional loan, refinancing and prolongation of VAT payment periods. The Western Regional Hotel Association in Pokhara has requested the financial institutions and banks not to pressurise the tourism industry to pay back loan and interest. Further, the government has announced a Health Safety Protocol once the restaurants, hotels and the tourism industry shall resume its businesses. Likewise, the World Tourism Organisation has urged nations worldwide to introduce packages to rejuvenate tourism.
Nepalis are known for their cheerful countenance and an optimistic attitude. And in Nepal tourists are earnestly welcomed as guests. Many Nepalis work on the tourism industry for their livelihood. And there are many remarkable attributes of our nation. Kathmandu is the city of temples while Pokhara is the city of lakes. Nepal is the birth place of Lord Buddha and it is home to the highest mountain peak in the world. The nation is rich in biodiversity and has high prospects in ecotourism.
Despite all its unique characteristics, Nepal sees its youth migrating to foreign nations for educational and economic prospects causing a dent in the country’s economy. And the majority of the underprivileged youth work in the Arab nations. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic this trend of going abroad amongst youth has temporarily halted. 
On the other hand, domestic and international tourism provide employment opportunities to the youth within the nation itself. Let's then hope that the tourism industry in Nepal will recover once the pandemic is obliterated.