Friday, 3 February, 2023
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OPINION

Tourism On Recovery Path



BMD

With COVID-19 becoming less virulent, there is a ray of hope that the situation may return to normalcy in the days ahead. Global tourism that has suffered the most from the century’s biggest ever public health crisis is expected to recover in the near future. Ever since the outbreak of the current pandemic more than two years ago, different sectors, including tourism, have been out of gear.
However, a silver lining has lately appeared along with a drastic fall in the number of COVID-19 infections and fatalities globally. Assessing the latest COVID scenario, many health experts have said that the viral disease would become endemic. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also hinted that the situation would change for the better as the new COVID variant — Omicron — has become much milder than its previous strains.

A lot of nations around the world have started coming up with plans aiming at reviving post-COVID tourism. Many European, American and Asian countries have either eased COVID-related restrictions or lifted them with the drop in infections as well as the intensification of vaccination against this viral disease globally. Numerous international airlines have resumed their scheduled flights to different destinations.

Although no concrete initiative seems to have been taken in Nepal to recuperate the ailing tourism industry, tourism entrepreneurs and other stakeholders are quite optimistic that they might see a favourable situation for their business to resume. They, however, are in a ‘wait and see’ mode with global tourism scenario not still clear. They hope that tourism activities could restart in the country as soon as the mandatory PCR testing requirement for travellers is removed.

Recently, the Airline Operators Association of Nepal (AOAN) urged the government to remove the PCR testing requirement for air travellers. An umbrella association of domestic airlines, it has also asked the government to scrap the provision for travellers to fill out a form of the COVID-19 Crisis Management Centre (CCMC).

About a month ago, the WHO reiterated that curbs on travel were not successful in controlling the spread of COVID-19 internationally. The global health body mentioned this by citing the different global responses to the outbreak of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Showing its concern over the travel restrictions, it said that such measures could only cause economic and social harm.

In Nepal, tens of thousands of tourism employees and workers have lost their jobs to the pandemic. They have either become jobless or switched to another profession as the pandemic has continued to deal its severe blow to the tourism sector. COVID-19 has also proved to be detrimental to tourism entrepreneurs whose investments worth billions of rupees have gone down the drain.
However, as the spring season is about to start, tour operators, airlines and hotels have started receiving encouraging bookings from a lot of foreign tourists. Spring is a major tourist season in Nepal. During this period, the country records a large number of nature lovers and adventure seekers. Even the world-famous trekking destinations like the Annapurna Region and the Khumbu Region remained high and dry during the COVID crisis. But these destinations have now begun receiving international tourists.

To revive the tourism industry that was the second largest sector to contribute to the country’s foreign exchange earnings prior to the pandemic after the remittance sector, all the stakeholders must come together. As a resilient sector, tourism can recover soon. But this will not be possible without making much-needed combined efforts.