Nepal, rich in unique cultural and natural heritage, is one of the leading countries in the world from the viewpoint of tourism heritage. Known for the coexistence of different castes and races, religions, languages, literature and culture, Nepal is an example of art, culture and religious harmony. On one hand, by preserving the country’s tangible and intangible archeological heritage; dances, music and festive processions; and costumes, languages and culture on the basis of democratic sentiment, and with the promotion of Nepalese culture and civilization in the world there is an immense opportunity of developing tourism sites, and preserving and conserving cultural sites. On the other hand, growth of tourism industry contributes to the earning of foreign currency, increase in employment, and overall economic prosperity.
Moreover, through the promotion of tourism industry, global friendship can also be enhanced. By developing and expanding the tourism industry to the rural level with intensive and coordinated community tourism, balanced and inclusive development can be achieved and it is probable that this can contribute immensely in poverty alleviation. Due to the country’s geographical structure and inadequate facility of alternate modes of transportation, it is vital to make air transportation affordable, safe, reliable and systematic, and thereby achieving a considerable increase in the number of domestic and foreign tourists.
Review of the Current Situation of Tourism
Focusing on potential markets such as India and China, tourism promotion activities have been carried out also in other countries in the region such as Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Bangladesh. In order to integrate programs by determining tourism centers, tourism hubs have been selected by Nepal Tourism Board. By organizing international meetings and seminars to publicize tourism and the cultural heritages of Nepal, as well as by conducting awareness programs for diversification of the tourism industry, the Destination Nepal Campaign (2002-2003) has been concluded. In order to place Nepal as a remarkable destination in the international tourism map, the task of branding, through the slogan “Naturally Nepal: Once is Not enough” has been completed. Nepal Tourism Year 2011 has also been completed with a grand success. Through these initiatives, and by revealing the unique natural beauty of Nepal in the international market, the task of introducing Nepal as a major destination has been successful.
In order to make a significant contribution towards the national goal of poverty alleviation, and to achieve a sustainable development in tourism, the Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Program (TRPAP) has been successfully completed as a pilot project in 6 districts. This program targets the poor and backward castes and women, Construction of an Integrated Tourism Master Plan with the aim of providing directives to the tourism sector, and the task of making timely improvement and modification in the tourism policy, is nearing completion.
With the objective of producing human resources of international standard, courses in Bachelors in Hotel Management and Bachelors in Travel and Tourism Management, are being offered by the Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management. Likewise, Mountain Academy Nepal, of international standard, has been established. In order to manage mountaineering tourism, the waste management system has been made mandatory for all mountains that have been opened for mountaineering. To make the tourism sector professional and attractive, golden jubilee celebration of the first conquest of Mount Everest and other mountains of more than 8000m height, have been concluded. Plans of waiving royalty for peaks in the Far Western region and other regions, and royalty for other mountains under mountaineering practice, are being reviewed.
During the Tenth Plan period, the target was to increase tourist arrival at an annual rate of 7.2 percent with the total target of 516,000 tourists. The Plan had set the target to increase foreign currency earning by 8%. But the number of tourists continued to decrease during the period of 2000 to 2002.
Although there was some improvement in 2003, and the number of tourists increased by 21.5% in 2003 and by 14% in 2004, the same growth rate could not be sustained in 2005 and the number of tourists dropped by 2.2% to 375,000. A slight progress was made in 2006. Accordingly 383,926 tourists visited Nepal and there was an increase of 2.3% in the tourist arrival during the Plan period.
Problems and Challenges
- Due to the lack of inventory of tourism sites and lack of master plan appropriate in the present time, the possibility of integrated and coordinated development of the tourism sector has not yet been transformed to an opportunity.
- Protection of the achievements of Tourism for the Rural Poverty Alleviation Program has been a challenge.
- For the development and growth of the tourism sector, effective utilization of sub-regional, regional and international organizations and platforms has not been achieved. Apart from conventional tourism, development and growth of other innovative tourism, such as adventure tourism and eco-tourism, has not been encouraging.
- Government and non-government agencies and the private sector related to the tourism sector are apparently attracted more towards publicity and promotional activities rather than towards infrastructure development.
Opportunities and Strengths
- Increase in the possibilities of inclusive development of the culture and tourism sector in the changed context has led to its emergence as a major economic sector. This is expected to make an important contribution in diversification of tourism business.
- Through the expansion and development of national and regional museums and the resulting exhibition of archeological objects of national interest, it is expected that the campaign of introducing national history would increase, endangered local culture would be protected, and local skill and handicraft industry would receive support, which would contribute to the development of tourism.
- The natural scenery, high mountains, incomparable cultural heritage and various specialities have made Nepal a well-known place in the world tourism map with a distinct image of her own. There is a possibility of further growth in the number of tourists with the opening up of new mountains and restricted areas.
- Recent political developments in Nepal have led to a peaceful settlement of the decade long conflict. As a result, the image of the country is improving at the global level, and possibility of growth in the tourism sector is getting stronger.
- Fueled by rapid economic growth, neighboring countries, especially China and India, are emerging as major origins of tourists. This has led to the possibility of bringing tourists from these countries to Nepal and increasing the overall number of tourists.
- There exists satisfactory level of infrastructure and capable private sector in the conventional tourists places. With small investment and efforts, the activity of the private sector could be increased in some new feasible places, leading to the growth in tourist activities.
- If important heritage sites such as Lumbini, Pashupati and Muktinath are developed, a large number of Buddhist and Hindu pilgrims would be attracted, with the possibility of making Nepal an ideal place of religious tourism.
- With the level of awareness rising among the rural people, there is a willingness to do something among the underprivileged groups and castes, Adibasi Janajatis, women and Dalits. This has increased the possibility of development of rural and internal tourism.
- There is an immense possibility of developing adventure tourism in the mountains and rivers of Nepal.
Long term vision
By preserving and conserving the existing natural heritages, tangible and intangible intellectual and cultural heritages, and by developing accessible and safe air services, Nepal will be established as a major tourist destination in the international level, so as to enable the tourism sector to develop as an important segment of the national economy, which could contribute significantly in economic growth, employment generation and poverty alleviation.
The objectives of the Three-Year Interim Plan related to tourism is to develop the tourism sector as a major segment of the national economy by developing Nepal as a major tourist destination of the world through development of tourism related infrastructures as well as promotion diversification and expansion of tourism, in order to make it contribute to employment and improvement in the living standard of the people.
In order to achieve the above-mentioned objective, the following strategies will be adopted:
- Through tourism promotion in feasible tourism markets, the image of Nepal will be re-established.
- By giving high priority, the tourism sector will be developed as the foundation of the economy.
- By considering regional balance as well, diversification and expansion of the tourism sector will be carried out.
- Through rural tourism, the tourism sector will be developed, so as to contribute in raising the living standard of the people.
- In order to develop capable and professional human resources in the sectors of culture, tourism and civil aviation, institutional strengthening of the concerned training institutes will be carried out.
- Through policy and institutional improvement of the culture, tourism and civil aviation sectors, services provided by these sectors will be made effective.
- The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal will be strengthened to increase its institutional capability. Private airline companies will be encouraged to contribute to tourism and economic development through the expansion of domestic and international air services.
- Special tourism promotion programs will be launched, targeting neighboring countries like India and China. Programs based on the feedback from experienced tourists will be launched.
- In order to develop infrastructure in the probable tourist sites, by coordinating with the concerned ministries, an integrated tourism infrastructure development program will be launched.
- Necessary initiatives will be taken to involve the Nepal Tourism Board, Development Committees and various organizations, in the development of tourism infrastructure and in addition to publicity works.
- Using modern information technology and equipments, tourist services will be further enhanced.
- Youth, backward groups, castes or religion, the poor and women will be encouraged with priority to get involved in tourism related awareness and employment generation programs and training and skill development programs.
- In order to rehabilitate the hotels that went to be sick due to the unavoidable circumstances, rehabilitation programs will be launched and subsidy, discount or other support will be provided in coordination with the concerned ministries.
- In order to develop the tourism sector as the foundation of the economy, easement, simplicity, and excellence will be maintained in tourist service delivery, by taking into consideration the experience of national tourism entrepreneurs and foreign tourists who have visited Nepal.
- The tourism sector will be diversified by developing education tourism, health tourism, wildlife tourism, and agro eco-tourism, sports, mountaineering and trekking tourism, adventure and entertainment tourism, cultural tourism, seminar tourism, movie tourism and religious tourism in addition to mountain tourism.
- Environment-friendly tourism activities will be promoted, and while searching for new possibilities in eco-tourism and sustainable tourism, programs will be launched in coordination with local bodies, the private sector and NGOs.
- In order to contribute toward poverty alleviation through tourism in rural areas in particular, programs will be launched through cooperatives in cooperation with NGOs and the private sector, to assist in quality improvement and marketing of products and services produced locally by backward groups and communities in the society.
- In order to produce skilled human resources for the tourism industry, initiatives will be taken to move the Nepal Academy of Tourism and Hotel Management towards self-dependence. High-level educational programs and trainings will be conducted by the academy. It will be developed as the major agency to coordinate, regulate and monitor Human Resource Development (HRD) programs related to tourism. Moreover, necessary coordination will be ensured in strengthening educational and training programs run by the private sector related to this sector.
The Three-Year Interim Plan of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation includes programs to bring backward groups, ethnic groups, religions and sections into the national mainstream.
With the successful implementation of the Three-Year Interim Plan brought forth for the development of tourism, the tourism sector will recover from the past sluggishness, and get rejuvenated. Through the infrastructure development of tourist sites, tourism activities will grow in new places; market of local skill and products will grow; employment opportunities for skilled and semiskilled human resources will increase, and in total, the living standard in the concerned rural areas will improve. By means of programs conducted with the direct involvement of local agencies and communities, tourism awareness will increase in local people including women, Dalits, and disadvantaged groups. In addition, affinity towards the tourism sector will increase, thereby contributing to a sustainable tourism development. In summary, the tourism sector will emerge as a major segment of the economy.