Deepesh Man Shakya is the President of Nepal Ireland Society, the organization of Non-Resident Nepalis in Ireland, and an active individual in the Nepali tourism sector. He is the program coordinator for the Experience Nepal campaign, a new form of tourism promotion program developing under the Nepal Tourism Board. He has been working to use new platforms and ideas to promote Nepali tourism, among them gastronomical tourism, and mobilizing Non-Resident Nepalis for direct foreign promotion. We spoke with Mr. Shakya to discuss these novel ideas he is putting forward and the challenges he is facing working for Nepali Tourism Promotion.
Q: Promoting Nepali cuisines internationally to promote international tourism has been a core idea for your initiatives. What other methods in your view can help promote Nepal in the international market and are you planning to implement further specialities of Nepal apart from cuisines to promote tourism here?
Deepesh: Experience Nepal campaign is basically to promote Nepal in wholesome. We are focusing on Cuisine and Culture in this campaign but the overall concept is to promote Nepal and market all specialities we have, which include climbing, trekking, music, hospitality, architecture etc. Having said that, we have plans to focus on some other sectors as well such as authentic Nepalese music in our next campaign which will probably be under the same banner; the focus could be on music or something else.
We will continue to promote Nepal as the prime destination for trekking and climbing. This is where we have the wealth and excel in what we can provide. We need to attract more tourists showcasing the majestic natural beauty our country possesses but at the same time we need to sell other authentic jewels we treasure in the form of art, culture, music, cuisine etc.
Q: Has promoting Nepali cuisine internationally been beneficial for your aim of promoting Nepal in the whole world? Is this strategy attracting the tourists out there and are you facing any difficulties in this process?
Deepesh: We have started the campaign just now. Being able to attract tourists solely by putting Nepal in the world map as a culinary destination will take time. First and foremost, we need to penetrate the world culinary market with the authentic cuisine taste we have. People need to know we have our unique taste, then they need to be brought in the position where they start to enjoy Nepalese taste and gradually create demand by visiting Nepalese restaurants and ordering authentic Nepalese cuisine. How we will get there is certainly a humongous task. We are competing against culinary giants like China and India. They have created a trademark in the culinary world and have won people’s trust. We need to be striving to get into that position. Yes, the path is not easy but every achievement begins with a first step. We have taken that step, I am not sure how much longer will it take to get to our destination but one thing I am sure of is, we will definitely get there. It is just a matter of sooner or later.
Q: Has the government and the politics of Nepal been a barrier in your work so far? Is it helping you as per your need?
Deepesh: I interact with Nepalese Embassies around the world. They have shown great interest and have assured to extend full support for this campaign. Politics is not a barrier in this campaign. In the heart of every Nepalese, there is an acute sense of obligation and a desire to promote Nepal. We are trying to knock on those hearts to make the Experience Nepal campaign not only of NTB but a campaign owned and run by every Nepalese inside and outside Nepal.
Q: How can the government and youths help and support you to maintain the international relation of Nepal with foreign countries?
Deepesh: People need to be pro-active. They should try to contribute whatever they can for the country. Every positive image they help to create cements another brick in building relations with foreign countries. Every Nepalese who is living abroad is an Ambassador of the country.
Q: Tell us about your experience to empower and encourage Nepali youth to follow your footsteps in making Nepal a better nation by promoting tourism.
Deepesh: I would like to request all youths and in fact every Nepalese living abroad to have positive approach in how we think about our country. The country has taken tremendous strides in last few years. Yes, there are many things that need to be done, even basic things are lacking but the truth is the country is heading in the right direction. There are definitely bumps and hurdles along the way. It will take time for those to be cleared out. If we maintain our positive approach and try to contribute the country in all possible way we can do it. I am pretty certain the kind of country every Nepalese has a desire to see is not that far away.
We have more than 10 million of our citizens living abroad. Just an example, if one person sends one tourist to Nepal, the statistics show it creates 3 jobs in the country. If even 1% of Nepalese living abroad tries and send one tourist to Nepal, we will get 100,000 more tourists which will create 300,000 jobs in the country. Similarly, the skill that you learn abroad, the resources that you have access to, if people try and siphon them remotely, it could be a massive development resource for the country. We talk about brain drain. This is the age of internet where everything can be done online. People don’t need to be physically present to contribute for the country. The Brain Drain that people talk about should now be converted into Brain Gain. For example, a Nepalese professor in the US can transfer his/her knowledge to many students in Nepal through remote supervising and tutoring if he/she so desires.