Call it a coincidence or not, the imminent exit of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) is going to concur with the onset of Nepal Tourism Year 2011 come January.
The government is set to observe January 14 as the inaugural day for the NTY 2011 – the day when the UNMIN will be wrapping up its mission.
Although the officials at the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) are attempting to give a positive spin to the UNMIN exit when they promote the NTY campaigns, they are increasingly viewing it with consternation given the volatility of the political situation.
“There are apprehensions that the UNMIN exit could set in motion the slide of political situation back to square one to conflict times,” said a tourism official.
Until and unless the Maoists and other political parties manage to settle the thorny issue of PLA management by January, the UNMIN exit could spell disaster to the peace process.
“But we are also equally glad that the UNMIN exit means the country has entered into peaceful era. The fact that the UN’s political mission is going to shut its office here means the country has attained a reasonably peaceful situation by overcoming its conflicts,” says Yogendra Shakya, National Coordinator and Vice Chairperson, Program Execution Committee of the NTY 2011 Secretariat.
This is the spin the officials are working on to lure the tourists. Shakya, however, is much more anxious about the Maoist gameplan.
The reports that Maoists could be starting anti-India movement after the festival season have Shakya worried to the hilt.
Of particular concern is his target of attracting Indian tourists from border region.
“Indian youths from border regions are our primary target. We want to attract them. But if the political parties have other ideas, it will be just futile to spend money on such promotional campaigns,” he said.
The tourism officials want to ease restrictions to allow Indians to come to Nepal through land border on their own vehicles. This, they say, will help them achieve the target of welcoming one million
visitors in 2011.