Don’t believe everything you hear, says TourMin

- SANGAM PRASAIN, Kathmandu
Don’t believe everything you hear, says TourMin

Jun 15, 2015-The earthquake situation in Nepal is not as bad as has been portrayed in some international media reports that has prompted many potential visitors to change their travel plans, the Tourism Ministry said on Monday.

The government has been taking various measures to rebuild tourist confidence after the April 25 earthquake and series of aftershocks.

Almost all the foreign sightseers in the country left immediately after the earthquake affecting the business of hundreds of restaurants, hotels and retail stores. Even domestic and international airlines have suffered huge losses following the mass departure of tourists.

Meanwhile, the government has also formed a high-level taskforce to revive the battered tourism industry. On Monday, it announced the reopening of most cultural heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley as part of the effort to boost arrivals.

Although government officials have estimated that it will take six or seven years to fully renovate the damaged heritage sites, reopening them is intended to send a positive message that they are safe to visit. “Not only Kathmandu, the whole of Nepal is open for tourism,” said Kripasur Sherpa, Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, during the reopening ceremony of Bhaktapur Durbar Square on Monday.

He assured foreign travellers that Nepal was safe to visit and requested Nepali diplomatic missions abroad to play a key role in promoting the destination at such a crucial time. Tourism Secretary Suresh Man Shrestha said, “A negative message that Nepal is unsafe to visit has been disseminated in the international community. But the government assures tourists that Nepal is safe to visit.”

There are seven Unesco World Heritage Sites in the valley, namely Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, Pashupatinath Temple, Bouddha Stupa, Swayambhu Stupa and Changu Narayan Temple.

“Among them, Changu Narayan and Swayambhu have not been opened to visitors due to security concerns,” said Tulasi Prasad Gautam, director general of the Department of Tourism.

The government has planned a special reopening of Kathmandu Durbar Square on Tuesday morning. Gautam said that the popular cultural sites had been reopened to spread the message that a majority of the destinations in Nepal were intact.

The quake and aftershocks destroyed 43 heritage sites including the Unesco World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu valley.

According to the report of the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment, the country’s heritage sites have suffered disaster effects of Rs19.22 billion and need Rs20.56 billion for their reconstruction.

Gautam said that the government had adopted a Build-Back-Better approach to restore the heritage sites. “The estimated reconstruction bill could increase 20 percent as a result.”

Meanwhile, the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) said that reopening the heritage sites to sightseers was an important initiative in the effort towards tourism recovery. Tourist arrivals in Nepal have plummeted following the deadly earthquake, and various initiatives have been launched to reverse the negative international media coverage.

Campaigns like Visit Nepal Autumn, Help Nepal Tourism and Nepal is Safe have been launched on social media platforms in a bid to build visitor confidence.

According to the NTB, only 14 out of the 75 districts in the country have been affected by the earthquake. Chitwan, Pokhara, Lumbini, Bardia, Annapurna, Everest and the Eastern and Far Western regions of Nepal were unharmed by the quake and are ready for business. Among the 19 protected areas, only three were affected. More than 90 percent of the hotels and restaurants in the Kathmandu Valley are in operation.

“Tourism is one of the mainstays of Nepal’s economy and it will certainly need the income that tourism brings as it attempts to recover from the disaster and keep jobs coming,” the country’s tourism promotional body said in a statement.

Published: 16-06-2015 08:24

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