Kathmandu, April 14, 2016:Â Leo Club of Kathmandu Gongabu organized Tourism Talk â€“ a talk to acquaint, accentuate, innovate and promote tourism in Nepal. Participants comprising of authorities from Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), tourism entrepreneurs and students talked on the issue to develop tourism in Nepal and the strategies required to exploit full potential of tourism in Nepal.
Giving his welcome speech, Leo Gaurav Dahal said that now is the best time to promote tourism in Nepal. â€œTourism can be the best means to bounce back to the economy level Nepal had before Gorkha-earthquakeâ€, he said giving inaugurating remarks.
Sudhan Subedi, officer at NTB and also a columnist writing issues relating to tourism on ekantipur.com and setipati.com to promote and instill the essence of tourism towards youths said that itâ€™s high time we focus on domestic tourism. â€œDomestic tourism, though not seen in figures, has large share in national economy. Thatâ€™s the reason we worked with the government to declare and celebrate 2073 B.S. as the GhumPhir Year to make Nepalese travel different places within the nationâ€, he said. â€œParents need to take their children along with while travelling since itâ€™s a must for school children to move around and visit different places as part of curriculum.â€ He further said that we need to promote places like Chitlang to further domestic tourism and make people from other parts of the nation visit there.
Subedi pointed out that hospitality is the greatest asset of Nepali people. â€œThough devastated by the quake and losing everything in the great tremor, they are still equally hospitableâ€, he opined. Visiting new places and posting photos and videos on social media and youtube, writing travelogue is becoming a rising trend among youths. He urged the youths to use the hashtag #ghumphir2073 to further promote the GhumPhir Year.
Pankaj Pradhananga, a tourism entrepreneur and one of the speaker in the event shared his journey on tourism entrepreneurship. â€œOnce, I got a call from my US agent asking where the happiest man on the earth lives. I googled to find it to be a Rinpoche living in a Monastery in Bouddhaâ€, he recalled. Itâ€™s the nature, culture and people that make people travel Nepal. People come here for the spirituality and the great hospitality that Nepalese have to offer. â€œNepal has always been a place that is highly inspiring. John Wood, founder of Room to Read and writer of the great book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World can be taken as an exampleâ€, he shared.
As per Pradhananga, weâ€™re also being idea-locked, not only land-locked. â€œWe need to innovate to take tourism in a new way. At a time when tour-operator jobs are taken over by online booking sites offering 24/7 service, we are still having traditional way of operating the industry. Tourism is going to be in a completely different way with the emergence of new technologiesâ€, he mentioned. At a time Nepal not being able to be disabled-friendly, Pradhananga pointed out the necessity of accessible tourism in Nepal. He also showed a video on Nepal visit of Marco Olivery, a visually impaired person and his trekking to Annapurna Region.
Yogendra Shakya, owner of Ambassador Hotel, the next speaker of the programme mentioned how their movement #IAmInNepal contributed to uplift the tourism that was handicapped by the mega earthquake. He further discussed on how some post-quake scenarios like blockade and plane-crashes are having negative impact to the industry. â€œWhen tremor hit Nepal, we were terrified for tourists might not visit Nepal. But, after India imposed trade embargo 3 months later, we wondered what if tourists visited. We were in a situation to handle any tourists and serve them because of the crisisâ€, he reminisced. He further said that the four roles played by every Nepalese: complaining, skepticism, egoism and politics in everything has a direct impact on development and growth of tourism industry in Nepal.
Leo Ashok Poudel, also the founder of lifeinthamel.com complained from the podium that we have not been able to promote and brand our touristic products and places in a right way. â€œOn my visit to Nainitaal last year, I was amazed to find Love point (place for lovers to meet and date), suicide point (place to commit suicide after failure of the love), scene point (place to enjoy the beauty of Nainitaal to the fullest), etc.â€ he recalled. â€œWe have not been able to brand our places in such way to attract people. Instead Nepali media can be seen doing negative promotion of many important places in Nepal with headlines like â€˜sex business on the rise in Nagarkot hotelsâ€™ instead of promoting it as a place to catch a great sunrise.â€ He shared that we are still feeling proud of having Brave Gurkhas as our ancestors, Mt. Everest and Lumbini â€“ the birth-place of Buddha and youths in Nepal not being able to do anything substantial to contribute to the nation. â€œYouths should not take going abroad as the ultimate goal in life. We can do much better staying in Nepal itselfâ€, he declared.
Discussion round, the next session in the programme provided a platform for the audiences to ask their questions to the panelists in the podium and authorities. On reply to an audienceâ€™s question on what they are doing to attract tourists from Bangladesh and SAARC countries, Sudhan Subedi from NTB said that they have made a special category for tourists from SAARC to ensure services to them at much lower costs and more neighborly hospitality and care. Answering to another participantâ€™s question on what significant thing they did to contribute tourism after the mega-earthquake in Nepal, Yogendra Shakya mentioned that the first thing they did was immediately organizing an Interrogation session in Hotel Annapurna to get the ground picture of tourists present in Nepal at that time. â€œOut of 20 thousands of tourists, only 4 thousands were in mountains, others were staying in Hotels. Of them, only 1 person staying in hotel and 150 of those in the mountains lost their life in the quakeâ€, he shared.
Debate on the topic â€˜This house regrets the rising trend of Nepalese choosing foreign destinations over domestic ones for tourism purposeâ€™ followed next in the programme. The debate, organized with support from Debate Network Nepal (DNN) saw intense round of speeches and rebuttals between the proposition and opposition panels. People could be seen interestingly listening to these debate sessions that were organized inÂ World School Style.
By Basanta Kumar Dhakal