02Jul2022

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Tag: VNY2020

Research Commentaries

NRC0019 – Improving Conditions for Local Tourists to Better VNY2020 Plans

Sanjay Pokharel

Synopsis

For long, the tourism sector has remained as one of the key components of Nepal’s national economy. With less than two months left before the formal beginning of “Visit Nepal 2020” (VNY2020), key stakeholders within the Government of Nepal and the private sector have been working to make this initiative a success. In this regard, I highlight why it would be wise for these stakeholders to also focus on improving travel options and services for domestic tourists as well while working on those options for the international visitors. I believe, the experiences of local tourists will have significant impacts on travel decisions of the guests from outside Nepal.

Background

Strategically positioned between two of the world’s largest economies – China and India, Nepal has immensely pacing its growth in tourism sector right after opening its door to the world in the 1950s. After the successful campaign to promote tourism in Nepal through “Visit Nepal 1998” and “Nepal Tourism Year 2011”, the government of Nepal has already announced year another ambitious tourism plan – Visit Nepal 2020 (VNY2020). As tourism sector accounts for 7.5 percent of Nepal’s GDP and is forecasted to reach 8.3 percent of GDP in 2027, the country has enough reasons to employ plans and policies to further boost this sector. Also, tourism in general has positive impacts across regions, especially in terms of generating employment, improving socio-economic conditions of local communities, and production and sales of higher local goods and services.

As per the VNY2020 plans, the Government of Nepal targets to bring in 2 million foreign guests into the country. With a catchy slogan of “Lifetime Experience”, Nepal not only plans to bring in more tourists into the country but also plans to establish the country as one of the first choices among global travel enthusiasts. To achieve these targets, the concerned public and private stakeholders have been working to improve existing destinations while also exploring few more new destinations. Nepal believes, with these, the tourists will have more options to travel to and experience Nepal’s most unique experimental and lifetime travel routes.

The VNY2020 is Nepal’s mission to show the world country’s, often undervalued, tourism industry and thus attract more of the high-value tourists by creating the best possible tourism experience. To make the year-long campaign a success, Nepal’s Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) has been partnering with Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and other key public and private stakeholders, most notably Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), local airlines companies, tour and travel operators and hoteliers. To move forward, an implementation sub-committee chaired by the MoCTCA Secretary has been formed and tasked with partnering with all stakeholders to make required preparations for the campaign.

Recent Trends in Nepal’s Tourism Sector

In 2018, Nepal hosted 1.17 million international visitors. China, India, the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom and Sri Lanka were the top five countries of origin for tourists that year. While the numbers of international guests was encouraging, the local tourists accounted for almost half of the total tourists in 2017.

Of the total visitors, more than two-thirds of them arrived for vacation, entertainment or travel. Overall, the entertainment, mountaineering/trekking, religious, and other trips comprised of 60 percent, 16 percent, 14.4 percent and 9.6 percent respectively. In the meantime, considering the recent boom in the quantity of local travelers traveling in Nepal and outside, it gives a clear message to the tourism industry and international market alike that Nepali travelers too could be an important part of the local and global tourism markets.

Preparing for VNY2020

Synergy of efforts along with the private sector, diplomatic missions, Nepali diaspora, the media and other stakeholders can be seen to support the overarching objective of VNY2020. In regards toVNY2020 prospects of domestic tourism in recent years have also been the key areas of interest for tourism stakeholders leading to its steady growth which in turn, is bound to fuel the tourism environment in Nepal. In the span of five years, domestic tourism has increased by almost five-fold with Nepalis have also developed a desire to travel around the country which signifies the booming of the sector. Apart from traditional leisure destinations, numerous new destinations have drawn domestic adventurers lately which not only promotes domestic movements but also attracts and opens ways for international tourists.

With the Visit Nepal 2020 in sight, the Government of Nepal has allocated a budget of Rs 2.68 billion for FY 2019/20 and 11 special strategies have been identified to develop and promote the tourism industry in the National Tourism Strategy 2016-2025. And, these allocations and strategies encourage/invite domestic and foreign investment, promoting public-private partnership, improving infrastructure, reforming government policies which pace the growth of tourism industry and numbers of domestic and international tourists. The crucial part is to accomplish the broader objectives of VNY2020 campaign and other tourism strategies where tourism stakeholders needs to immediately consider the five low hanging interventions proposed by our NIPoRe researcher – Mr. Nirnaya Bhatta. Those interventions that are related to infrastructure, security, better service and experience, payment mode and transportation doesn’t only ensure safe travel for international tourists but also promotes domestic tourism.

In the meantime, the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s State Visit to Nepal in October this year has added a new vigor in the diplomatic relation between Nepal and China. Additionally,, following the visit, the numbers of Chinese tourists here increased. Post State Visit; 15,037 Chinese tourists visited Nepal which is 11.5 percent more than the number of Chinese visitors coming to Nepal in the same period last year. This clearly shows that meaningful diplomatic practices too can help Nepal to work towards achieving major VNY2020 targets.

Stakeholders like Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN), Federation of Handicraft Association of Nepal, Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents and Nepali diaspora are on stage promoting Nepali tourism before formal beginning of VNY2020. These stakeholders have been trying to do global promotion of VNY2020 related plans and activities.

Though using diplomatic relations and collaborations within and across the stakeholders can definitely bring larger outputs, and, while promoting works outside Nepal for related activities, these stakeholders also need to cleverly think of targeting existing major countries of origin of foreign travelers to Nepal and also reaching out to new countries if they wish to establish Nepal as one of the top travel destinations in the world.

As the larger numbers of international travelers is definitely a good idea to boost Nepal’s struggling tourism sector, but still the larger question remains – “Are these stakeholders considering the aspects of domestic tourists”. If stakeholders are strategic enough, they can lure Nepal’s increasing middle-class to spend more time on exploring Nepal’s diverse tourism destinations.

Also, merely a surge in numbers does not add up to significant results unless Nepal can encourage tourists to stay for longer period and expand their daily expenditures. And to do so, these stakeholders also need to have ample diversified tourism packages. A bigger question may arise in this regard, i.e., “How to increase the tourists length of stay and expenditure?” The answer lies within the National Tourism Strategy 2016-2025 that focuses on tourism infrastructures. And, history has shown that without proper coordination and collaboration between tourism stakeholders it’s very difficult to accomplish these goals. For the domestic and international tourists alike what matters is their overall travel experience and that experience, in my view, is what Nepali tourism industry needs to sell which comes when all the stakeholders come together.

Concluding Remarks

Despite having countless travel destinations within the country, in recent years, more and more Nepalis are flocking for destinations outside for recreation and holidays. In my view, though we should not try to (and even if we wish, we won’t be able to) discourage Nepalis from traveling abroad, improving local tourism industry could encourage more Nepalis to stay back and travel across different parts of the country. This act will not only help locals to explore their country but also contribute towards local, regional and national economy.

As the official tagline for VNY2020 is “Lifetime Experiences” and with less than two months left before commencement of the campaign, we seriously need to further evaluate where we are and where our stakeholders are in regards to the campaign. The important aspects in this regard could be – Are we considering domestic tourism as an important aspect in the campaign? If so, what are our strategies that promotes domestic tourism? Thus, if infrastructures, services and experiences improve for domestic tourists, it will inadvertently improve for international tourists, which demonstrates that promoting domestic tourism and expanding the structural and functional priorities for domestic tourism will trigger bigger positive impact on international tourists.

References

  1. Bhatta, N. (October, 2019). Visit Nepal 2020 – Have We Managed to Get Our Priorities Straight?. Nepal Institute for Policy Research (NIPoRe). Retrived from https://nipore.org/nrc0016-visit-nepal-2020-have-we-managed-to-get-our-priorities-straight/
  2. Mahat, J.J. (October, 2019). President Xi Jinping’s State Visits – SAARC Vs ASEAN. Nepal Institute for Policy Research (NIPoRe). Retrieved from https://nipore.org/ndv0004-president-xi-jinpings-state-visits-saarc-vs-asean/
  3. Ministry of Finance, Government of Nepal. (2019). Budget Speech of Fiscal Year 2019/20. Retrieved from https://mof.gov.np/uploads/document/file/budget_speech_website_20190619052055.pdf
  4. Prasain, S. (May 26, 2019). Nepal tourism generated Rs240b and supported 1m jobs last year: Report. The Kathmandu Post. Retrieved from https://kathmandupost.com/money/2019/05/26/nepal-tourism-generated-rs240b-and-supported-1m-jobs-last-year-report
  5. Prasain, S. (July 29, 2016). Nepal tourism sets goal to boost arrivals fivefold. The Kathmandu Post. Retrieved from https://kathmandupost.com/money/2016/07/29/nepal-tourism-sets-goal-to-boost-arrivals-fivefold
  6. The Himalayan Times. (August 30, 2018). Outbound Nepali travellers spent almost Rs 80bn. Retrieved from https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/outbound-nepali-travellers-spent-almost-rs-80bn/
  7. The Himalayan Times. (August 18, 2019). Lack of Proper Systemisation, Infrastructure and Management are Hindrances for the Growth of Internal Tourists in Nepal. Retrieved from https://thehimalayantimes.com/business/perspectives/developing-domestic-tourism/
  8. The Himalayan Times. (November 12, 2019). Chinese Tourists’ Arrival Up. Retrieved from https://thehimalayantimes.com/nepal/chinese-tourists-arrival-up/
  9. The Kathmandu Post. (June 30, 2016). Middle Class Swells to 22pc of population. Retrieved from https://kathmandupost.com/money/2016/06/30/middle-class-swells-to-22pc-of-population
  10. Stynes, D.J. (1997). Economic Impacts of Tourism. Tourism Research Laboratory, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved from https://msu.edu/course/prr/840/econimpact/pdf/ecimpvol1.pdf
Research Commentaries

NRC0016 – Visit Nepal 2020 – Have we managed to get our priorities straight?

Nirnaya Bhatta

Synopsis

Understandably, there is a national fixation on undertaking grand infrastructural projects, also reflected in the Joint Statement between Nepal and China released during the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit, in various sectors including those in the tourism sector. Although, basic infrastructure such as street lights, tourist hotlines, decentralized tourist help centres, reliable payment systems, wi-fi access in tourist areas, better safety arrangements for locals and tourists, should not be discounted in making Visit Nepal 2020 (VN2020) a success or a disappointment. Since time of essence to get things right before the year-long campaign commences in less than two months now, this commentary recommends 5 immediate interventions that would improve tourist’s overall experience in Nepal.

The third edition of a year-long tourism campaign

Visit Nepal 2020 (VN2020) is preceded by ‘Visit Nepal 1998 – A World of its Own’ and Nepal Tourism Year 2011. In 2018, 1,173,072 tourists visited Nepal and the daily average spending per tourist was USD 54. VN2020 aims to bring in 2 million tourists and increase the average spending per tourist per day to over USD 75.

Grand plans call for grand implementation too

The two following consideration could come handy to guide implementation. First, making sincere efforts to reduce ambiguity related with national plans among entities within the state apparatus. Sure, there is no well-defined path to neither planning nor implementation and governance is usually based on ballpark assumptions. During President Xi’s visit the entire state apparatus worked together to make it a success, and that it would be unfair to acknowledge these efforts. Similarly, given that numerous institutions- government entities and beyond- would be required to be mobilized for successful implementation, a top-down approach should be expected to do poorly.

A simple exercise for logical planning. Stakeholders that are responsible to plan and implement will benefit with the following simple exercise. They can ask themselves, “what are the basic things I would need while visiting a foreign country?” This question could be asked keeping in mind the journey that starts at the international airport through the entire trip.

Tourism infrastructure

What does tourism infrastructure really entail? It includes a “large number of services, necessary to meet the needs of tourists and increase satisfaction during their stay at the destination”. The relation between national infrastructure and tourism development has been clearly established. It is only logical that an improvement in national infrastructure increases the capacity of a country to cater to complex suite of needs that tourists expect to be taken care of.

To further understand what comprises tourism infrastructure, it is useful to refer to the numerous indicators that make up the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI). The TTCI is a global index that benchmarks the “competitiveness of 140 economies and measures the set of factors and policies that enable the sustainable development of the Travel & Tourism (T&T) sector”. The reason why major stakeholders planning and implementing the VN2020 should refer to the index as it would help them identify specific indicators from a vast range that need to be improved, given that the government has limited attention and resources.

Figure 1- Source (The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019)

Policy considerations – 5 immediate interventions for Visit Nepal 2020

Since time of essence to get things right before the year-long campaign commences, this commentary focuses on 5 immediate interventions aimed at improving the tourist experience in Nepal. These interventions give high benefit-cost value. Meaning, they accrue large benefits when compared to the costs incurred. While the budget for F.Y. 2019/20 allocates NPR 22.68 billion and the National Tourism Strategy 2016-2025 identifies 11 special strategies to develop the tourism industry; it is crucial to immediately consider these five interventions.

  1. Ensuring a pleasant airport experience:

Lately, there have been noticeable progress with facilities at the international as well as domestic terminals at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. Although, much is yet to be done given that the traffic at the airport is expected to increase. Apart from ensuring that a tourist’s VN2020 experience start with bitter events right after landing at the airport by unnecessary hassle at the immigration desk, mismanaged carriers, luggage claim mechanism, fraudulent transportation, unavailability of money exchange booths (given that it is rare that Nepali currency can be exchanged anywhere else!). It would also be practical to help tourists better understand what the country can offer by providing them with maps, and crucial directions, beyond the airport authorities have limited control over how things unfold.

  1. Improved security infrastructure for tourists:

Safety is a primary concern that travelers consider while determining their travel destinations. These considerations become more salient when families travel together. The least that the campaign can aim at doing is to make our guests feel secure. The concerned state authorities could run television campaigns on how tourists, and thus the tourism industry, help Nepal’s sagging economy and that it is the responsibility of each Nepali to be as hospitable as they can.

  1. Tourist hotlines and assistance centres:

Lately, one will find excellent response from traffic police call centres at 103. Similarly, the government should introduce a 24-hour dedicated tourism hotline. Further, assistance centres can be established in most tourist areas. This information could be announced at the airport itself and advertised all over the international airport areas.

  1. Transportation:

Car rental services in Nepal is still very immature, even compared with other South Asian countries. Cab drivers charge utterly arbitrary rates, especially if the customer is a foreigner. It is often said that locals don’t get a fair share of pay for service provided. This may be true, but there needs to be a fair arrangement where neither locals nor tourists feel exploited.

  1. Easier and safe payment mechanisms:

The recent ATM related scandals do expose the vulnerability of Nepal’s banking sector. Often foreigners are found to be afraid to use their international payment cards with local vendors. It would be a shame if such a mere inconvenience deters tourists from actually spending. It is the lack of basic facilities that either make or break a tourist’s experiences in a foreign country.

Conclusion

Nepal evokes an exotic imagination among global tourists that few countries do. Although, even a handful of mishaps can dampen Nepal’s image as an attractive tourist destination. In tourism, the intangible element of image plays an instrumental role.

Right before the official commencement of VN2020, this is the right time for an earnest evaluation of our capacity to cater to 2 million tourists. Further, it is useful to not just fixate on the VN2020, given that tourism competitiveness is a function of an overall infrastructural development in the long term. If services actually improve for the locals, it will inadvertently improve for the tourists too. Installing street lights, improving tourism security and the other aforementioned factors may look lesser grand for the government but will prove to be equally important in making VN2020 a success. The tagline of VN2020 is “Lifetime Experiences”. Why let minor inconveniences occurring due to lack of basic facilities translate to a lifetime bad experience to a tourist.

Reference

  1. Calderwood, L. U., & Soshkin, M. (2019). The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2019 – Travel and Tourism at a Tipping Point. World Economic Forum. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-travel-tourism-competitiveness-report-2019
  2. Jovanovic, S., & Ilic, I. (2016). Infrastructure As an Important Determinant Of Tourism Development In The Countries Of Southeast Europe. EcoForum. Retrieved from http://www.ecoforumjournal.ro/index.php/eco/article/view/329
  3. Ministry of Finance, Government of Nepal. (May 29, 2019). Budget Speech of Fiscal Year 2019/20. Retrieved from https://mof.gov.np/uploads/document/file/budget_speech_website_20190619052055.pdf
  4. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Nepal. (Oct 13, 2019). Joint Statement Between Nepal and the People’s Republic of China. Retrieved from https://mofa.gov.np/joint-statement-between-nepal-and-the-peoples-republic-of-china-2/
  5. Prasain, S. (Jul 29, 2016). Nepal tourism sets goal to boost arrivals fivefold. The Kathmandu Post. Retrived from https://kathmandupost.com/money/2016/07/29/nepal-tourism-sets-goal-to-boost-arrivals-fivefold
  6. Pun, S. (March 5, 2019). Nepal Tourism Campaign #VisitNepal2020. The Spotlight Magazine. VOL 12 No.14, March 01, 2019 (Falgun. 17 2075). Retrieved from https://www.spotlightnepal.com/2019/03/05/nepal-tourism-campaign-visitnepal2020/
  7. Visit Nepal Year 2020 Secretariat. (August, 2019). VNY 2020 Update. Retrieved from https://2020.welcomenepal.com/pdf/Tabloid_VNY_Aug2019.pdf