For a country like Nepal, which is blessed with an abundance of picturesque natural destinations and cultural diversity, the tourism sector — which accounted for 7.5 per cent of the country’s GDP in 2017 according to Economic Impact Report by World Travel and Tourism Council — has become an important part of the national economy. With the appointment of new minister Yogesh Bhattarai at Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) and campaigns like Visit Nepal 2020 gaining pace, it can be said the tourism industry of Nepal is moving in right direction. Prospects of domestic tourism in the recent years have also become a key area of interest for tourism entrepreneurs leading to its steady growth which in turn, is bound to fuel the tourism environment in Nepal in the coming days.
Deepak Raj Joshi, CEO at Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) informs, domestic tourism has seen unprecedented growth in the last three-four years. “There was a time when domestic tourists were not regarded as tourists by tourism entrepreneurs. After the earthquake of 2015, the country did not receive a lot of foreign visitors while domestic tourists started travelling all over the country, which changed this perception,” he points out.
After the earthquake took its toll in the international tourism market of Nepal, NTB launched campaigns centred towards internal tourists like ‘Ghumphir Year’ in 2016, under which social media and digital tools were used to attract the youth and the earning population of Nepal.
Joshi informs the impact of youth-centric programmes like such led to a surge in internal tourism post earthquake. Increase in disposable income among the local population, gradual development of transportation, awareness and popularity of touristic destinations, improving tourism services are also some of the reasons behind growth of domestic tourism.
“In a span of five years, we have experienced five-fold increase in terms of internal visitors,” shares Amrit Shrestha, Resident Manager at Gaunghar Hotel, Bandipur. As per him, unlike international tourists whose arrivals are experienced especially during the tourist season (September-November), internal visitors tend to visit Bandipur mostly during festivals like Dashain or weekends, a trend similar for other destinations as well. “Nepalis have also developed a desire to travel around the country lately and for those who cannot travel to international destinations, local destinations have become the first choice,” he adds.
In accordance to the number of internal travellers, Shrestha shares that the numbers of tourism entrepreneurs, hotels and lodges are also increasing.
Lack of infrastructure
Lack of adequate infrastructure has always been a bottleneck for the country’s tourism industry. From poor road connectivity to lack of proper touristic services, many travel destinations in Nepal despite having prospects do not see a lot of visitors. AsmitShrestha, 22-year-old student from Kathmandu recently travelled to Manang. “Being a travel enthusiast I have travelled to a lot of places in Nepal and have felt several times that the transport infrastructure in travel destinations like Manang, Dhunche, Tsho Rolpa among others lack easy accessibility,” he shares.
“Domestic attractions have been promoted well and the volume of domestic tourists is satisfactory, but the sector still lacks proper commercialisation,” shares PradeepAcharya, Managing Director at Duke Nepal Adventure. He adds, “Tourism is a government’s prioritised sector but infrastructural development needed to fuel the sector all over the country has barely been developed. For instance, accommodation facilities in Rara, Khaptad and SheyPhoksundo National Parks which are under the government’s control are not up to the mark.”
As per him, people with knowledge of destination marketing is lacking in tourism promotion and as the biggest tourism promotion body of Nepal, NTB is centred in Kathmandu, many local bodies lack guidance leading to lack of local destination promotion.
He shares, “The spending capacity of Nepali people is also increasing and now is the right time for the government to provide incentives to people who travel to remote areas of Nepal.” “Though respective provinces are promoting home-stay facilities across Nepal, it is being done without proper planning, preparation, training or infrastructure. Home-stays are a pivotal aspect for domestic tourism development, so systemising and managing them is also equally important,” he adds.
Tourism plays a huge role in employment generation in the country and from adventure, wildlife, pilgrimage, trekking to holiday destinations, there are a plethora of choices for internal tourists in Nepal.
Joshi shares, “We have also highlighted new tourism destinations in Nepal creating destination diversity. Places like Rara, Surkhet and Jumla in the past years have developed as attractive tourist destinations and have also attracted investment from tourism entrepreneurs.”
Despite the increasing investment in the sector, Acharya opines that investment security is worrying factor for entrepreneurs. He says, “Though tourism can generate jobs within the country and alleviate poverty, establishing upscale resorts and hotels in places except urban areas is next to futile for entrepreneurs. The government must secure investment in tourism and assess the needs of a touristic destination to establish proper infrastructure.”
Room for improvement
Kathmandu, Chitwan, Pokhara, Lumbini, Annapurna Circuit, Everest Base Camp, Mustang among others are popular destinations among both international and domestic travellers. However, places like Dolpo, Taplejung, Ramechhapet cetera still remain underrated among tourists. Joshi shares to promote these diverse destinations, NTB is currently encouraging regional travel.
He says, “Earlier, the source market of domestic tourism belonged from Kathmandu, but now we are encouraging people from a certain region to visit nearby areas. For instance, locals from Biratnagar can visit nearby areas like Illam, Dhankuta and Dharan.”
He informs, “Our focus at present is Visit Nepal 2020, but we are also promoting domestic tourism through it by organising events, workshops and creating awareness for Nepali destinations through local media.”
As per Nava Raj Dahal, President at Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal, there is an increasing need to keep records of domestic tourists, especially those who are trekking enthusiasts. “Some domestic tourists also tend to get into accidents, get lost or need rescue facilities while trekking. The government must prioritise safety and security of tourists by introducing provision to take trained guides for those travelling to unknown terrains.”
Dahal feels that domestic tourists must be informed while systematic guidelines need to be introduced for this sector to develop. He says, “Local communities that depend on tourism must be made aware of domestic tourism’s importance so that they treat both domestic and international tourists equally well which encourages prospective domestic travellers.”
Written by Sandeep Sen
This news first appeared on https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/perspectives/developing-domestic-tourism/ under the title “Developing domestic tourism”. Bolchha Nepal is not responsible or affiliated towards the opinion expressed in this news article.