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Hopes of Nepalese tourism hinge on new leadership

Posted by: Ballav Dahal | Date: August 31, 2008

With the formation of the new coalition government under the leadership of Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda', the much-needed socio-political stability and peace are likely to prevail in Nepal. It goes without saying that these are the major prerequisites for the socio-economic development of any country.

 

Nepal's economic development process is moving ahead at a snail's pace even after the success of the April Movement and the consequent signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA). Unemployment, underemployment, out-migration, and social and ethnic tensions are the main problems facing the country. However, the political leadership seems to have realised the need for socio-economic transformation. Senior Maoist leaders and newly appointed ministers, including Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, have reiterated their commitment to gearing up the process of socio-economic development. The three coalition partners-- CPN (Maoist), CPN (UML) and Madhesi People's Rights Forum-- have also reached a consensus on different issues, including writing the new constitution and accelerating socio-economic transformation process.

 

Tourism is the world's largest and the fastest growing industry in terms of foreign exchange earning and employment creation. This is undoubtedly one of few viable sectors to contribute to the national economy as well. The tourism sector could be a vital means to raise the living standard of many people, as it directly or indirectly supports many other auxiliary industries such as agriculture and handicraft.

 

But the fact is that tourism in Nepal has not flourished as expected in its almost six decades of history. One of the reasons behind this could be the absence of peace and stability. No required effort has been made for the development of tourism as a national industry.

It is needless to say that the Nepalese tourism industry has been running in a traditional way. We have yet to develop tourism into a potential sector of the national economy. Despite many comparative advantages of tourism over other areas, tourism has not been recognised as a priority area. The commitments made by the policy-makers and the political parties have been confined just to lip services. Being a sensitive sector, tourism has suffered a lot from politically-motivated bandhs and strikes. It seems that the political parties have not thought of adverse impact of strikes on the national economy.

 

Considering the multiple effects of tourism, this sector should be high on the agenda of the new government. The government should take all the issues concerning tourism in totality and formulate both short-term and long-term plans and policies for its sustainable development.

The role of aviation sector in the overall development of the landlocked country like Nepal is very crucial. But we are compelled to depend for bringing in tourists upon foreign airlines. The condition of the national flag carrier-- Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC)-- is getting worse from bad. The crux of the problem lies in its management. It is high time that the government take immediate measures to overhaul its management and give a new lease of life to the ailing carrier.

 

Hassles at the international as well as domestic airports are yet another never-ending problem. The visiting tourists often get harassed not only from the airport and immigration staff but also from taxi drivers and hotel and restaurant agents. Because of such problems, the perception of visitors towards the country itself has changed.

 

The functioning of the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has not been very effective. The organisation was formed for promoting tourism, developing products and upgrading their quality. The condition of our cultural heritage sites is also not so encouraging.

The government should hold extensive discussions with all the stakeholders of tourism and formulate more inclusive policies to take the country's tourism to a newer height.

 

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