Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019’. According to the two experts who prepared the report, this report “provides a valuable tool for policy-makers, companies and complimentary sectors to understand and anticipate emerging trends and risks in global travel and tourism, adapt their policies and practices, and accelerate new models that that ensures the longevity of this important sector.”
The report gives a brilliant picture of issues in the industry, which could be utilized by policy-makers and decision-makers of countries like Nepal with still untapped tourism market. It is a good sign that the government of Nepal has started giving top priority to tourism sector. But the ground reality is that the government seems to be still confused about do’s and don’ts in ways and means to attract more and more foreign tourists. It will be worthwhile to mention here that about 8/9 years back, the government of Bhutan hired an internationally reputed consulting firm to study, analyze and recommend the most appropriate plans, policies and implementation methodology to develop tourism sector. It is reported that the report of the consulting company is the basis for all policies and decisions of the government of Bhutan in the entire tourism sector. The stake-holders of tourism industry in Nepal, especially tourism ministry and Nepal Tourism Board, can definitely take advantage from the detailed analysis done by World Economic Forum.
The report has identified 14 pillars which affects the sector- 1. Business Environment, 2. Safety & Security, 3. Health & Hygiene, 4. Human resources & Labour market, 5. ICT Readiness, 6. Prioritization of Travel and Tourism, 7. International Openness, 8. Price Competitiveness, 9. Environmental Sustainability, 10. Air Transport Infrastructure, 11. Ground and Port Infrastructure, 12. Tourist Service Infrastructure, 13. Natural Resources, and 14. Cultural Resources and Business Travel.
Among 140 countries studied, Nepal scored better in Price Competitiveness (15th position) and Natural Resources (33rd position); but scored very low in Environmental Sustainability (134th position), Ground and Port Infrastructure (131st position) and Tourist Service Infrastructure (126th position). In Price Competitiveness, only three other countries in Asia scored more than Nepal- Malaysia, Indonesia and India. In the year 2018, 25.83 million tourists visited Malaysia and 15.81 million in Indonesia. The report says that “lower costs related to travel in a country increases its attractiveness for many travelers as well as for investing in the Travel & Tourism Sector”. Hence, being the 15th best destination from Price Competitiveness angle, Nepal should have attracted increased flow of visitors with high growth. But compared to other tourist destinations in Asia, Nepal’s tourism growth is still very poor. It clearly indicates that due to dismal performance in other 13 pillars, Nepal could not yet take full advantage of its tourism potential.
Nepal is in 93rd position in Air Transport Infrastructure. Not only for exponential growth in tourist arrivals, but also being a land-locked country, this pillar is of utmost importance to Nepal. It is high time that government gives top priority in Nijgadh International Airport and national flag carrier, both of which are always in the news but without any sign of epoch-making progress.
Let us hope that this report shall be an eye-opener to the government to make tourism industry a catalyst for prosperous Nepal.