A paradigm shift
Dec 6, 2017-Dangling wires, dusty air, mismanagement, and traffic congestion—these are the first few special elements that welcome the tourists to Kathmandu. It is then a little surprising that we have still been able to win the hearts of more than half a million tourists annually. I am guessing the credit goes to the natural and cultural beauty of our country alongside the everyday hospitality of the people here.
But the question remains, do we settle for what we have or do we tackle the pressing issues so that the tourism industry could bloom like never before?
Once in a while, our netajis impart their two cents on transforming our country into something like Switzerland. So I realised it would be fair to borrow a few ideas from Switzerland—which is half the size of Nepal and hosts twice as many tourists annually—to develop and transform the country into a tourism heaven.
Let’s start with free skies first. You don’t see ugly wires dangling over the Swiss streets. Just like our water pipes and sewage systems run underground, so do their networks of electrical transmission systems. This is beneficial in a multiple ways: While it provides extra space on roads, the vulnerability of infrastructural damage is also lessened. Not only is the electrical system largely immune to changing weather conditions but the maintenance cost is also optimised. Moreover, the space occupied by the wires in our streets can be utilised to devising bike paths and disabled-friendly roads. Imagine how pretty the roads would seem then.
Switzerland is also known for its stance on clean energy. Recently in a referendum, Swiss voters have voted for focusing on renewable energy sources and putting a ban on new nuclear plants. Majority public Swiss buses are already electrical and are contributing to lessening the air pollution. As a country gifted with immense hydro-electricity generation potential, Nepal should also try switching to electric vehicles rather than the ones that run on fossil fuels. Though the Nepal Government has put forward the plan to achieve this in ten years’ time, there is sign of actual practical initiatives or explicit strategies taken in the direction.
The 2015 mega earthquakes had brought down many important cultural heritages to rubbles. Alongside the trio of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan Durbar Squares, there are many iconic heritages that have always drawn a huge number of tourists to our country. Looking at the pace of the reconstruction works in resurrecting these cultural icons, it can be said that these monuments are not going to be restored anytime soon. And the tourists are going to be definitely disappointed in the sight that awaits them.
With the time for disaster-tourism having come to an end for some time now, this delay will only have negative effect on the number of inbound tourists. If we want to become Switzerland we need to be efficient at solving problems that are in plain-sight, to say the least.
Likewise, we must keep up with advancements in information technology that has emerged as an integral part of the tourism industry. We have left the age of post-card far behind. It is the age of the internet. Advertisements, web pages, documentaries—these are the forms of new media that the government should invest in so as reach to larger audiences. T-shirts carved with Buddha’s eyes are not enough—the government and tourism entrepreneurs need to embrace digital promotion strategies.
While Nepal’s natural and cultural capacity cannot be debated, our tourism practices need a major overhaul. This is true not just for the government and the concerned sector, but for all of us on an individual level. It is easy enough to transform Nepal into Switzerland, perhaps even better, but we have to pay close attention to elements that drive development.
Pant is an A-Level graduate from Budhanilkantha School
Published: 06-12-2017 13:50