During 1962/63 there was a popular satirical program in the UK, presented by David Frost, Bernard Levin and others under the title ‘That was the week that was’ or TW3 which is now a faint memory. This Corona pandemic of 2020 has been an eerie experience which we would like to forget. Nepalis had looked forward to this year’s ‘Visit Nepal 2020’, like that of 1998 and 2011 to be a great game changer for our country. With the elusive Yeti projected as a symbol, expectation was that a tourist bonanza would follow but unfortunately this turned out to be a whimper. The reality should now dawn in the minds of tourism industry experts that they must depend more on the locals plus the people in regions adjacent to us. The rumoured ‘two day’s weekend’ as being contemplated will hopefully get Nepalis to get to know their country better. This will lead to the development of Home Stay facilities all over the country to facilitate this.
Individuals, from far off lands will hesitate to travel to distant places but it is not just the effect of this pandemic that caused this setback to tourism in Nepal. Since the time that legendary Boris of Royal Hotel, by courtesy of Thomas Cook brought tourists here, things have changed enormously. New thinking has to percolate into the minds of our tourism leaders that it is the development of middle class facilities that is going to pull the industry out of the glut that it is in. Simple, clean facilities with reasonable prices have to be offered so that the Nepalis and others from nearby neighbouring lands come in the visit places in Nepal.
We have to have lateral thinking. True that PM Oli has done a great job in stressing the construction of the Dharahara. He will certainly be remembered for it. Because of his example local bodies have been constructing just view towers too, thinking that visitors come to Nepal to see mountains only. Has all thinking by local authorities gone haywire? Well, instead of mountains, what is there to see or do in Nepal? Adventure tourism, like paragliding at Pokhara and rafting plus bungee jumping has been done at other places. Besides Pokhara, Rupa, and Begnas other sites where lakes exist e.g. Rara could be developed. Locals must be encouraged and aided to do so.
Amenities must be encouraged and facilities provided at sites already functioning e.g. Mankamana, Chandra Giri & Sarankot so that services improve to make it visitor friendly. Other cable cars facilities must be encouraged at appropriate sites. Museums showing different cultures e.g. Tharu at Sauraha and Dang, Kirat at Dharan and Maithili at Janakpur must be set up like the museum at Pokhara. Local foods must be promoted like the Sauerkraut that is popular in Germany. Why not a Kimchi Festival as it is getting popular in Nepal or a Gundruk festival at Ghandruk. Cheese festival at Jiri with different varieties of cheese e.g. goat and buffalo are options. Delicacies from tama, sisnu, wuha, millet should be encouraged and propagated. After all it all comes down to ‘Eat, drink and be merry’.
Like the ‘Mini Indonesia’, a ‘Mini Nepal’ should be constructed somewhere within our country to depict the lifestyles, customs, cultures and traditions of the several of the various ethnicities and tribes that constitutes Nepal. This will be very interesting to not only foreigners but also to locals to know our land better. The idea of a museum at Narayan Hiti Durbar was appropriate. The statues of the Rana PM could perhaps be shifted there from the Tundikhel so that people can gaze at our history.
New projects must be taken up. One notes that the Peace Pagoda, Mountain and Gorkha Museums have aided tourism in Pokhara. Even a Shiva statue being constructed there will draw devotees. Buddhist statues existing at different site also attract visitors. A Vyas statue is contemplated at Tanau. Beni Nagarpalika is said to be constructing a Ravan Park as Ravan, his two brothers and sister are supposed to have been born at Beni Bazar in Myagdi District. This facility will perhaps attract Sri Lankar tourists there.
October Fest is held during the course of the month in Munich in Germany. It is claimed in Nepal that as much as three-quarters of annual consumption of alcohol occurs during the period between Dasain & Tihar. As many varieties of regular and craft beers are produced in Nepal it would be a good idea to hold a similar festival annually here too. This will attract visitors from the South to taste our varieties of beer at various strategically placed watering holes along our Southern border e.g. at Biratnagar, Hetauda, Bhairahawa, Dang and Nepalgunj! Any time after July is ideal to get away from the Indian Heat waves which are being made worse by presently occurring global warming.
As Westerners do not come here during their Christmas & New Year we have to make alternative plans. Why not let people from the North for what can be termed the ‘Losar Season’ extending from mid-Dec to mid-January? Perhaps some efforts should also be made to identify appropriate ice slopes so that Nepal can become a destination for skiing enthusiasts from all over the world,
Now that cannabis or hemp cultivation is no longer ostracised, efforts are essential to make proper usage. Formerly fabrics, textiles and other products were made there from. Bags like those of jute, being biogradeable can replace plastics. Cannabis has great potential is for medicinal use. Last but not the least is the possibility of building inexpensive dwelling with ‘Hempcrate’.
As we try to deal with the pandemic, the rules and regulations regarding incubation periods must be rational and clear cut. Potential tourists do not have essential information. Let our government and Ministry of Tourism bring about rules that are safe and beneficial to visitors and locals.
The author is a retired medical doctor and writes fiction under the pen name of Mani Dixit also. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixMithd