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Experts say Nepal tourism will need time to recover

  • Struggling tourism industry
- SANGAM PRASAIN, KATHMANDU

Jul 1, 2015-

Nepal tourism will need time to recover from the direct hit it took from the April 25 earthquake, travel traders said.

The tourism industry has been hard at work staving off negative publicity and trying to convince potential travellers that a majority of the destinations in the country are safe to visit. A few countries have toned down their travel advisories, encouraging international tour operators to observe that there is every reason for Nepal to be confident in its tourism future.

Speaking at an interaction on Tuesday entitled Turning Point in Tourism: The Role of National and International Tour Operators jointly organized by the government and Samarth, a flagship UKAid-funded initiative in Nepal, they said that it might take a little longer for Nepal to win the confidence of travellers due to the travel warnings issued by many source countries and the perception foreigners have towards Nepal following the disaster.  But Nepal should move aggressively with branding and promotional activities to assure visitor safety and security, the participants said.

“Nepal used to be our best selling destination, but numbers have been on a declining trend after the Maoist insurgency,” said Jo Chaffer of the UK-based tour operator KE Adventure. Soft adventure activities are the major attractions for British travellers in Nepal.

“The April 25 earthquake has further changed the perception of visitors due to massive media coverage on Nepal’s devastating earthquake,” Chaffer said, adding that the British people were currently not in a travel mood in Nepal. “Nepal needs to improve its quality and assure safety standards to woo back tourists.”

However, Japan has not changed its travel advisory to visit Nepal. “Only one-fourth of the trip bookings made with our agency have been cancelled,” said Sonia Miyahara, operator of Mountain Travel Japan.

“Nepal needs to provide information regarding the safety status of its destinations. Such assurances from the government will help us bring Japanese tourists to Nepal.” She said that 80 percent of the sales of her agency are focused on Nepal.

Meanwhile, Mads Mathiasen, operator of Denmark-based Himalaya Trails, said Danish visitors had declined since the Maoist insurgency. He, however, said that travel warnings had become a major issue for Danish visitors after the earthquake, but once they are out, demand for Nepal would jump significantly.

“Based on the current bookings, autumn is really looking to be bleak,” he said, adding that trip bookings for Nepal were expected to drop 85 percent within the next few weeks because negative perceptions still remain among visitors in Denmark. He, however, said that if the Nepal government assured highly safety standards, things could be better in the near future.

Likewise, Mick Chapman, operator of Australia-based Himalaya Guides, urged Nepal to focus on free independent travellers or backpackers as they look for cheaper destinations. “After the earthquake, we have already observed a 70-75 percent drop in Australian visitors due to negative travel advisories.”

He said that tourists from Australia were down 30-35 percent during the Maoist insurgency period but recovered quickly. “It might take Nepal a little longer to woo tourists due to changed visitor perceptions towards Nepal after the earthquake.”  The Russian market has also seen a significant drop in advance reservations. Sergey Vertelov, operator of Himalaya Club Russia, said they had observed 60 percent fewer bookings for Nepal. He said that Nepal should emphasize those places which are safe to visit.

Meanwhile, initial concerns seem to have receded and the desire to visit Nepal has bounced back among tourists.

“I’ve been going back and forth on whether it’s ethical for us to visit Nepal, so this gave me some peace of mind,” says one would-be British traveller Ailish Casey in a tweet.

“The Case for Planning a Trip to Nepal. I’m sold, I agree. Let’s help rebuild Nepal’s Tourism,” a Canadian Mariellen Ward tweeted. Meanwhile, the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment report has estimated that the overall impact to the Nepali tourism industry will be a reduction of about 40 percent over the next 12 months, and a 20 percent reduction in the following 12-24 months. Tourist numbers plunged 90 percent during the period May to July.

With regard to trekking, the report said that high-end segments were more likely to cancel their trips to Nepal and the impact of the earthquake on this group was expected to be a 70 percent reduction over a 12-month period.

However, the number of low-end trekking groups is expected to recover quicker with an estimated reduction of 20 percent over a 12-month period.

Published: 01-07-2015 08:55

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