With the government resuming issuing on-arrival visas to foreign nationals with the Covid-19 situation slowly normalizing in the country, many hope that Nepal’s tourism industry, which suffered the worst setback in years, will also begin to revive. But what actually is the state of the tourism industry at the moment? How did the tourism businesses suffer and what are the prospects? Nepal Live Today spoke to Dr Dhananjaya Regmi, the Chief Executive Officer, of the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).
How badly did the pandemic affect our tourism sector? How can we revive it?
The disasters such as pandemics affect the tourism industry in two ways. First, if the tourists don’t come, workers and businessmen will be completely unemployed. They will lose their source of income. But there are others who can earn their living from other jobs even if the tourists don’t come. It affects different groups of people differently. Thus this notion that the tourism industry has met with the catastrophe is wrong. The thing is people who are totally dependent on the tourism business, owners and workers are in much more difficult situations. For example, those who ran hotels on rent and trekking guides who used to have seasonal earnings have been badly affected. But we have no exact data of such people.
The pandemic has taught us a big lesson on the need for maintaining data. Our system of keeping data and record is weak. We need to strengthen it. ID cards should be distributed to every worker associated with the tourism sector identifying whether s/he is a full-time or part-time worker.
We have a biased view of Indian tourists. We tend to think they don’t spend much.
Annual investment in the tourism service sector is Rs 150 billion, out of which 75 billion is invested through the banking channel. Cash-in-hand transactions have no record but cover a significant portion. I believe we do the business of Rs 150 billion from the same investment. Thus we need to understand that the tourism industry accounts for a significant portion of Nepal’s economy. Only banking transactions are calculated in GDP. So the real contribution of the tourism industry in GDP is more than what is seen. Official data shows around 3,00,000 work in the industry. But many more people are associated with the tourism sector, which our official data do not cover.
There do not seem to be any credible plans to revive the industry at the moment. What is the plan to revive tourism post-pandemic?
For recovery and revival, we have acknowledged the importance of i
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