Post COVID Survival & Revival of Nepalese Tourism Industry
7th May, 2020 | Tourism Mail Crew
Being the extremely stroked sector by COVID-19 pandemic, Nepalese tourism industry will have to wait a long to bring itself back on normality. When tourism industry was on its way to becoming the highest contributor to national GDP and backbone of the economy as a whole; this unforeseen outbreak brought it down to the lowest supplier to national economy. Coming out from this by no means is easy however we should focus on the things that we can do in order to revive its charisma. Since international flights are likely to continue its ban and incoming of the foreigners are expected to decline drastically, the only solution to come out from this trap and save the national tourism industry is by promoting Domestic Tourism.
The perception of domestic tourism is not new to Nepal but it is yet to be commercialized. Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini are some of the well known tourist destinations among the Nepalese travelers and they are gradually risking with adventurous activities like Rafting, Bungee Jumping, Trekking etc. Beside some of the well known destinations mentioned above, every corner of Nepal is formed with its unique social, cultural and natural magnificence. We can find distinctive culture, distinctive landscape, distinctive people and distinctive lifestyle in space of every 50km i.e. we have unlimited offerings for our own people who love to experience divergence from their scheduled life for some time. And this is the right time to work on to it and bring out the best from it. We can increase the sale of domestic tours to our people from where we can promote local destinations, preserve them and make profit from them which ultimately help to increase the local level employments and contribution to the GDP.
I have figured out below points to promote and preserve the domestic tourism which will help us to survive from the pandemic in the short term and to revive the whole industry in the coming days:
Exchanging Regional/Provincial Visitors: In order to keep the domestic tourism alive, the tour operators should promote inter-provincial travel by encouraging touring and publicizing the hidden secrets of the different attractions in different regions and the experiences there of. We have unique offerings in every corner of the country from wildlife to monuments, from relaxing meditation to breathtaking adventures. We just need to exchange them with local people. Till now, Kathmandu is the only major source for domestic tourists. People from Kathmandu travel to different places as a domestic tourist but the local tour operators and government has failed to encourage people from different region to travel within the country and experience the lifestyle and the beauty of different localities. So if we have to survive and revive the tourism industry; concerned authorities should immediately work on to encourage the exchange of regional/provincial visitors.
Promoting Religious Tourism: In recent years, the annual growth rate of religious tourist to total tourist arrival ratio is significant. We have numbers of pilgrimage and religious sites which offer many possibilities to travel within a country for a specific ethnic groups of people. The major religious groups we have are; Hindus and Buddhists. We can take Hindus from Kathmandu to Janakpur to visit Janaki temple and bring back the Hindus from to Janakpur to Kathmandu to visit Pashupatinath. Similarly we can take Buddhist from Kathmandu to Lumbini to visit the birthplace of Buddha and Buddhist from there to Kathmandu to visit Bouddha & Swayambhunath. It is not only bound to Kathmandu and other specific destination. As mentioned above, we have many such religious sites within our locality (everywhere in the country) and we can promote them by exchanging such ethnic groups to one another. Due to the higher religious influence in our daily lifestyles, our people are ready to travel anywhere if it is the matter of "Dharma Kamaune". They indisputably take it as a pride.
Mandatory Educational Tours: From the recent data from different universities we have around 5 lakh students enrolled for a higher education. If government comes up with a policy to make an obligatory educational tour for the students, we can have around 5 lakh domestic educational visitors each year. Domestic travelers spend around NPR 2000 per day in an average and if they spend 4 days on tour we can generate around NPR Four Billion (Rs. 4,000,000,000.00) as a revenue from the students only. Remarkable! This is undoubtedly a huge number in these situations which will help us to survive in the long run as well if it is established as a system. Isn't it something worth going for?
Changing the Perspective of Service Providers towards Domestic Travelers: Domestic travelers have been facing significant discrimination by the service provider since long in Nepal. These service providers comprise of airline companies, hotels and local people of the destinations. They always prefer to serve the foreigners rather to endow with local tourists. Airlines companies, operating flight to the touristic destination are not allowing travel agencies to book a flight for domestic traveler until and unless the possibility of having booked by foreigners is over. Similarly, the hotel service provider and the locals of the touristic destination does not welcome local tourist as warmly as they do with the foreigners; resulting the dissatisfaction, bothering, hindrances and ultimately the cancellation of the tour plan. So if we are to promote the domestic tourism and survive in this industry, we must change the perspective of seeing domestic tourist at very first place and make them experience the true value of money they spent.
Local Infrastructure Development-New way of Generating Employment: In order to make it feasible to welcome the visitors from different localities, every destination should be well coped with the required basic infrastructures. Such infrastructures may be roads, home-stays, toilets, and taps etc. which are of basic needs to the visitors. Since most of we are in lockdown and more gladly we are in our own communities; this is the right time to build and develop these infrastructures in our locality. We can employee the locals for the development of such foundations by which they can earn a modest in the short term but after COVID-19 and in the long term, locals will be definitely benefited the most.
Subsidies on Local Tourism Development: The cost of developing required foundations in the destination of tourist attractions will not be sufficed only with the contribution of locals. They may only contribute physically for these improvements but they certainly need a financial support from the government. Local level government in coordination with state government and central government should provide the subsidies for the development of infrastructure and tourism products of specific area. Beside government, hotels in these areas can invest some of their money for such development activities, after all the visitors have to spend their stays with them from which they can recover their investments later on.
Tax Exemption for coming Fiscal Year: Even though the pandemic hit us in this fiscal year, the actual impact of this will only be experienced in the coming year so as to keep the tourism businesses alive, government must exempt the income tax for coming fiscal year for all the tourism entities which majorly includes travel agencies, hotels, transport companies and airlines companies and also in the exemption of social security taxes for the employees of these organizations. As the associations of hotels, travels and airline companies are now in the process of reducing salary and ultimately to cut off its staffs; government's initiation to exempt the taxes in these sectors may help to retain their workforce and eventually the agencies to sustain and revive in the tourism industry.
Concluding this, to help the tourism industry recover we should promote religious, cultural and historical destinations aggressively and should make the information of such destinations available to our people. We can use the digital methods of advertising for this. Government should provide subsidies as well as the tax exemption facility to stakeholders of tourism and at the same time Airlines industry, Hotels and all other relevant service providers should operate in a least & sustainable margin only. Domestic tourists should also be treated in the same way as service providers take care of foreigners. All in all, our survival and revival from this pandemic is possible only by promoting inbound tourism otherwise we don't have any option left then to shutting it down.