Oped

Paradigms of tourism

  • Nepal is not developing as it should to capture its true tourism potential
- Aditya Baral

Sep 19, 2017-Tourism is an amalgamation of a multitude of disciplines and consequent variables. It is also viewed as a contingent business because variables like floods, accidents, landslides, fires, wars, and politics directly or indirectly impinge its functioning and impact its smooth operation. Countries close to affecting variables are not necessarily the only states that bear the brunt, long haul destinations may also be impacted, however, the magnitude of these impacts may vary. For example, volcanic eruptions in one nation may have major impacts on the regional flight movements. Likewise, heavy rain, snow or prolonged fog may disturb the ecology and movement of potential travellers. Nature, man-made terrors and politics are the three top threats that tourism has been encountering as major deterrents through history. On the flip side, humans have a tendency of forgetting the past, and tourism, as an industry fuelled by human interest, benefits from this trend.

Humans survive on the hope of bettering their predicament, and, tourism continues to survive with resilience in the face of untoward incidents. For example, the bombings in the nightclubs in Bali and Phuket, the volcanic eruption in Indonesia, Taj Palace Hotel’s terrorist episode in  Bombay, and massive earthquakes in Nepal were major setbacks to the tourism industry, yet the power of resilience has manifested itself in the persistence of tourism in the face of these disasters. People have fickle memories and hence they forget old hangovers. Therefore, no matter how bad the situation is, tourism keeps moving ahead with new challenges and revised strategies.

Woes of the poor

Bigger nations have the benefit of enormous resources and can develop methods and strategies to better cope with dire disasters. However, smaller nations keep looking towards bigger nations for assistance in times of trouble. Nepal, though blessed with an abundance of natural resources and cultural diversity, has remained the victim of its own destiny. Despite being endowed with acclaimed sites, and despite its fame in tourism, Nepal has, since time immemorial, been unable to attract tourists as per its expectations. Day by day, it is turning into a country that is increasingly complex to govern, particularly due to political intricacies and challenges of diversity. Nepal’s image as a tourism destination has been tarnished more by our domestic politics than by natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides or floods. Now, following the completion of the upcoming elections required for a federal set up, the creation of more layers of political administration could further complicate the tourism industry.

On top of these political problems, our poor infrastructure has further hampered efforts for building the tourism industry. Pathetic highway conditions between the top tourism destinations of Kathmandu, Chitwan and Pokhara have crumbled, further hindering the prospects of national parks and pristine lake areas. Furthermore, the existing state of our airports, roads, and bridges are big development bottlenecks that leave tiny avenues for tourism and other economic sectors to prosper. We should try to affect change in terms of the political mire that Nepal is currently entangled in, and we should also strive for the improvement of the state’s infrastructure. To create a wealthy nation, we must strive for inclusion not isolation, partnership not protectionism, bridges not barriers, and freedom in trade not fears.

Global network as a problem

Today, ‘connectivity’ has been a commonly touted lexicon in vogue with all regional leaders. Bigger nations are increasingly emphasising their mega concepts and smaller ones are looking to bigger neighbours for inclusion in the execution of these projects. However, beneficiary countries also have to take the initiative to benefit from these mega projects—they cannot simply expect a free hand out without doing any work. For example, in terms of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of China, Nepal should also make sure to do its share of the work to reap maximum benefits. Connectivity in all forms provides leeway for a number of industries to flourish, hence small nations like Nepal should work to further it.

The effects of globalisation are occasionally deemed as deterrents, particularly for a small, resource crunched, and import based nation like Nepal. The fast growth trajectory that our northern and southern neighbours have followed over the years has hardly been beneficial for us in lieu of a proper export base. Nepal is limping along with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of less than 4 percent; this poses innumerable questions vis-a-vis its geographical position. Simply being situated in between the two powerhouses of India and China is not a boon in itself unless one establishes means to benefit from this position, either in trade or politics.

While natural and man-made threats discourage potential travellers from embarking on a long journey to a distant nation and may deter tourists from visiting Nepal, our state does not necessarily need to look to far-off nations as a source of tourism. Instead of long haul tourism, Nepal can look to markets that are closer in proximity and entail a shorter itinerary for travel, such as China, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea. This particular type of tourism with a shorter length of stay will have a positive impact on the average spending of each tourist, thus having massive effects on macro earning from tourism in Nepal.

The world is proving selfish, with more demands and less compromise, with more agreements and less consensus, and more commitments and less action. A niche space has to be created either through astute diplomacy or through a proven ability for collective prosperity.

Baral is a consultant in the tourism industry

Published: 19-09-2017 08:22

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