Ballav Dahal While the global travel industry has remained affected after the outbreak of novel coronavirus in China in December 2019, a Nepali travel trade leader has called fellow entrepreneurs and other stakeholders for focussing on creating tourism products and upgrading the existing infrastructure.
“We should utilise the present moment for developing new tourism products, upgrading the existing ones and refurbishing the infrastructure,” said Achyut Guragain, the newly-elected President of Nepal Association of Tour & Travel Agents (NATTA).
Nepal is celebrating 2020 as the Visit Nepal Year with an ambitious target of attracting two million international tourists. The country has aimed to host some 500,000 Chinese tourists alone. But the spread of the coronavirus has hit the tourism industry worldwide.
“In such a situation, we need to get engaged in product development, policy reforms and infrastructure development,” said Guragain, who is also the chairman of Sea and Sky Tours and Travels (P) Limited.
He urged the government to set up help desks at the TIA as well as all the border points to contain the coronavirus. “The government must ensure that the country is safe from that infection,” he said.
He, however, hoped that the infection could be contained within one month or so.
“The authorities concerned must focus on carrying out maintenance and repairs of roads in order to make all the touristic areas accessible,” he said.
He is confident that the on-going national tourism campaign would be successful in meeting its target.
“For this, the government must encourage the private sector to make more investments. There should be collaborative efforts to give the much-needed boost to the country’s tourism industry,” he said.
He also suggested that efforts should be made to materialise the proposed mega projects like the Second International Airport in Nijgadh of Bara district.
He called on the government to recognise the tourism industry as a national industry and offer incentives and facilities to it accordingly.
Talking about the tremendous prospects the country holds for MICE (meeting, incentive, conference and exhibition) tourism, he urged the government to build a large hall for giving a boost to the MICE segment.
“With favourable climate, Kathmandu as well as other cities can be an important venue for organising different regional and international-level conferences,” he said.
Expressing his happiness over the appointment of the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), he said the national tourism organisation must move ahead by taking all the tourism entrepreneurs into confidence.
Shedding light on the importance of the national flag carrier for the development of tourism in any country, he asked the government to step up necessary measures to strengthen Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC).
After Madan Kharel resigned as the NAC’s executive chairman, the government has entrusted the responsibility with the Secretary at the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA). The national flag carrier is likely to get a new managing director soon.
“The airline has failed to utilise its wide-body jets and other planes due to lack of an efficient mismanagement. The NAC management needs to be overhauled in order to restore the NAC’s past glory,” he said.
Once the NAC gets consolidated, it may significantly contribute to the country’s tourism industry. The airline should expand its international as well as domestic flights.
Meanwhile, the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) has undergone a noticeable change in recent times. “With the installation of additional luggage belts, passengers now do not have to wait longer for their luggage,” he said.
The arrival and departure terminals are being expanded. The immigration services have also been upgraded.
“It is worth mentioning that the government is dedicated to developing the TIA into a boutique airport,” he said.
He also suggested that the government should start promoting and marketing the Gautam Buddha Regional International Airport and Pokhara Regional International Airport.
“The government should offer incentives to foreign airlines to operationalise these airports. It can reduce landing and parking fees besides slashing prices of the aviation fuels,” he said.
Showing his concern over the death of some Indian tourists in Daman, he asked one and all to be cautious for the safety and security of tourists.
“We hope that more Indian tourists will be visiting Nepal this year as efforts are being made to attract them. We are inviting Indian tour operators and media to discuss the bilateral and third-country tourism promotion,” he said.
Keeping the outbreak of coronavirus in mind, NATTA has postponed the Buddhist International Travel Mart (BITM) for the first week of May from March.
“We are working out plans to make the upcoming event a success,” he said.
NATTA is also hosting a conclave of international airlines’ CEOs in Nepal. – The rising nepal daily