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TourMin issues 100-day plan to revitalise tourism

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu
Newly appointed Tourism Minister Rabindra Adhikari has issued a 100-day action plan to address stalled tourism and airport infrastructure projects, speed up reconstruction of heritage structures and review policies hampering tourism growth.
Tourism organisations like Hotel Association Nepal have welcomed the list of promises unveiled on Friday calling it a new economic order. 
Adhikari has promised ‘good governance, transparency and a culture of accountability’. He said Friday that he would not tolerate a business-as-usual approach and corruption. 
Most of the items on the agenda are regular day-to-day tasks and projects included in the annual plans of the agencies under the ministry like the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (Caan) and Nepal Airlines Corporation, among others. 
The first promise is keeping Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) open for at least 21 hours daily in order to reduce air traffic congestion. “This is the first assignment I want to deal with. I have received a lot of complaints, and I am confident of addressing the issue of congestion,” he said. 
Aviation officials have questioned whether the international airlines serving Nepal are responsible for the congestion. “If you look at the air traffic statistics, the share of international traffic is around 25 percent,” said an aviation official. 
“TIA is facing severe congestion because of poor slot management.” 
Most of the international flights operate between 1 pm and 5 pm, resulting in chaos for airlines and air traffic controllers. Traffic is thin in the mornings till 12 noon and from 6 pm to 9 pm. “So if some flights are transferred to the morning and evening slots, traffic congestion can be reduced significantly.” Traffic congestion is mostly visible from March-May and from September-November when it is peak travel season in Nepal. 
Minister Adhikari has also promised to finalise the modality of the proposed Nijgadh International Airport in Bara within 100 days. He has pledged to complete the liability management with the Korean company that prepared the detailed feasibility study for the airport. Similarly, the ministry has promised to complete 40 percent of the physical infrastructure of Gautam Buddha International Airport in Bhairahawa while Caan has set its own target of completing 50 percent physical progress by June-end. 
Caan said that the project had achieved 35 percent physical progress as of mid-March. This means that the ministry will have to achieve only 5 percent more physical progress within 100 days to fulfil its goal. 
The ministry has also promised to resolve the conflict that has arisen over the reconstruction modality of historical Rani Pokhari and begin construction. It has pledged to open the Hanuman Dhoka Palace Museum to the public by building a temporary structure. Only 82 out of the 753 heritage structures damaged by the 2015 earthquakes have been reconstructed so far. 
Likewise, the Tourism Ministry has decided to form a think tank to gather suggestions and feedback on a regular basis. It has decided to draft a concept paper on mobilising tourism attachés in five major tourism source markets for tourism promotion. 
The casino sector has generated more than its share of disputes in the tourism industry. The ministry wants to get the Cabinet’s approval to draft a Casino Act in a bid to streamline the gambling business. Due to lack of laws, many casino operators have been defaulting on royalties and taxes.
The government has decided to digitalise and consolidate archives of national importance. The ministry said that 11,550 of the 31,000 handwritten manuscripts on various topics along with 655,000 images preserved at the National Archives would be catalogued, tagged and uploaded. 
Likewise, the ministry will be forming a committee to develop tourism satellite accounts to determine the actual contribution of the tourism industry to Nepal’s economy. 
Minister Adhikari said that a detailed project report would be prepared to develop model tourist destinations in each of the seven provinces. Ilam, Janakpur, Makwanpur, Pokhara, Rupandehi, Mugu and Kailali have been identified as potential tourist spots. 
The ministry has decided to establish a secretariat for Visit Nepal Year 2020 to prepared for the national tourism campaign. In the trekking sector, the ministry has decided to build a Guerrilla Trail and Yarsa Trail that will be at least 10 km long. The ministry has decided to complete the groundwork for the purchase of six Twin Otter aircraft to serve remote areas. 
Published: 2018-03-31 08:27:24