PHOTO: Nepal's tourism industry may be struggling. (Photo courtesy Thinkstock)
There may be some concerns arising from within Nepal’s tourism industry about the country’s forward progress. According to a report in the Himalayan Times, weak destination promotion and an influx in illegal tour operators as well as a lack of infrastructure are hampering growth.
“Accessible air connectivity, affordable air fares, construction of proper road network and electricity are the pre-requisites which are still major challenges to overcome for tourism development,” notes the paper.
Airline officials are focused on the problems.
“For the past 28 years, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has not invested in a single aircraft. This is the root cause of the problems that we are facing at present,” Sugat Ratna Kansakar, managing director of Nepal Airlines Commission (NAC) tells the Himalayan Times. “It is a fact that a country that has a strong national carrier, attracts higher number of tourists. For instance, Spain, France, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia have enough investment in aircrafts and, as a result, their tourism industry is developed.”
The airline is trying to resolve these issues, however.
“NAC will procure two wide-body aircraft in the next two years and will increase the destinations accordingly,” says Kansakar.
Nepal’s national carrier may be receiving some of the blame, but officials also note that thinking beyond the earthquake recovery is also one of the reasons for the slow growth.
“It is true, that September to November is the traditional high tourist season but our tourism sector has not effectively recovered from the repercussions of the massive earthquake followed by the economic blockade in 2015,” Ashok Pokharel, president of Nepal Association of Tour Operators (NATO) tells the Himalayan Times. “We are as prepared as we were in 2014 to attract tourists. However, we have failed to make the leap to ‘2017 and beyond’ preparedness.”
Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts group general manager Raju Bikram Shah notes that rather than leisure travelers, the hotel is hosting more business travelers.
“The guests who have booked into hotels and resorts now are not here for travel purposes; they’re here on business,” he says.
Illegal tour operators are also causing strife within the industry.
“A price war exists and is primarily propagated by illegal operators who are either unlicensed or do not pay taxes or those who are in the business with the clear intention of defaulting on their debts to suppliers like hotels, domestic airlines and transport suppliers,” Pokharel tells the Himalayan Times.
The Nepal Tourism Board is actively promoting the country using various strategies.
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“Tourism is on the right path to recovery. We expect that this year the tourist arrivals will reach up to 700,000,” Deepak Raj Joshi, CEO of Nepal Tourism Board tells the Himalayan Times.
However, other tourism officials such as Pokharel are critical of their methods and preparedness.
“Our habits and past history have shown that we pull targets out of thin air. For instance, one minister wanted a million tourists but had no idea how; another wanted to re-brand but didn’t know what a branding exercise entails,” Pokharel tells the Himalayan Times. “And thus the delivery of those targets cannot be achieved because the targets have not been thought through. The intentions may have been good but we must remember that the path to hell is also littered with good intentions.”
For more information on Nepal’s recovery, read on here.