Nepal tourism year 2011 has come to an end. Around 7 and a half lakh tourists, a little short from the goal to land a million tourists, actually visited the country.
Now all eyes are set on Lumbini as Nepal is preparing for another landmark year in Nepalese tourism history. Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, offers high tourism value and has the potential to carry forward the momentum gained in the year 2011.
Hundreds of millions of tourists go for religious tourism around the globe in a single year. If Nepal can lure in only a small fraction of these pilgrims, then Visit Lumbini campaign can easily be a turning point in Nepalese tourism, say tourism experts.
Along with the Visit Lumbini campaign, the Great Himalaya Trail- Climate Smart Celebrity Trek (GHT-CSCT) is also being organized from 15th January to 13th May, 2012, beginning in Ghunsa, Taplejung, in the Eastern Nepal and ending at Darchula in the Far-western Nepal.
According to organizers, GHT-CSCT will promote Great Himalaya Trail as a great tourism product and will also highlight the impacts of Climate Change in the Himalayas, and showcase how sustainable tourism can be used as a tool for poverty reduction and to build climate-resilience among impoverished mountain communities in Nepal.
It is led by Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation and supported by many of the development partners of Government of Nepal. Apa Sherpa (21 times Mt. Everest Summiteer) and Dawa Steven Sherpa (2 times Mt. Everest Summiteer) will lead this climate friendly trek.
So, Nepal is all ready to embark on another busy year in terms of tourism.
Tourism target of Tourism year 2011 was missed by nearly a quarter. According to Tribhuwan International Airport (TIA) Immigration Office, Nepal observed an aggregate growth rate of 21.4 percent in total tourist arrivals by air in 2011 and the overall growth in tourist arrival aggregate up to around 20 percent. Some 544,985 tourists entered the country via air in 2011.
“Although we missed out on the goal, this year has most importantly repaired the image of Nepal in the international market and has sent a message that Nepal is a safe place to visit,” said Yogendra Shakya, coordinator of NTY 2011 campaign.
The growth rate achieved by Nepal in a single year is very encouraging, especially when we keep in mind the hurdles that were hindering the tourist arrivals.
Tourist arrivals from both our neighboring nations dominated the numbers. Around 145,000 Indian tourists and around 45,400 Chinese tourists visited Nepal during the year. But the numbers were still below the expectations of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).
“When the whole world is looking at India and China, we should not miss out the opportunity to catch the tourists from these countries and they were our main priorities,” said Shakya. “Had we been able to buy two aircrafts, the tourist arrivals would have been up by 1 lakh and 20 thousand and if the budget was released on time, the goal could have been surpassed.”
The frequent turnaround and uncertainty in the Nepalese politics sent an all- round negative message. Likewise, the publicity of Nepal tourism year was also very ineffective and started only during the twilight of the year which hugely played a part in achieving the tourism year goal.
Amidst everything, other major drawback of this tourism year was that no new major tourist destinations were established and Nepal had to rely on the old tourist destinations to lure in tourists.
The great Himalayan Trail might be the answer to Nepal’s need of another major tourist destination. GHT has the potential of not only attracting tourists but also holding them for a long time.
On the flip side, since last year even the common people have started to invest in the tourism sector. In this year alone, more than 165 people have registered for homestays. This year has started the new trend like homestays from which the common people directly benefitted along with the tourism industrialists and hoteliers, said a Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) official.
However, the people who benefitted from the tourism were mainly the people from already established tourist destinations.
If peace and stability prolong, infrastructures are built to attract the tourists and, importantly, if the government is able to buy aircrafts, then Nepal tourism year 2011 might be just the beginning of the era where tourism can be the mainstay of the Nepalese economy.
The parliamentary committee on human rights and international relations of constitutional assembly has also directed Tourism ministry to buy aircrafts for Nepal Airlines to increase the number of tourists. “We have directed authorities to buy aircrafts to make Visit Lumbini year and tourism decade more effective,” said Padma Lal Biswokarma, Chairperson of the committee.