SUJAN DHUNGANA, The Himalayan times, June 01, 2018
While tourism entrepreneurs are optimistic about a gradual increase in the flow of foreign visitors to Nepal in the coming years owing to political stability, they are baulking at the target of attracting two million tourists annually by 2020, which was announced through the 2018-19 federal budget.
The private sector tourism entrepreneurs have said that the target of two million annual foreign tourists with the current infrastructure is not only highly impractical, but also close to impossible.
“We all know how bleak the tourism infrastructure in the country is. Without making the available road infrastructure and aviation tourism-friendly, it is extremely difficult to bring in two million foreign tourists annually by 2020,” said Sunil Sakya, chairman of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), Nepal Chapter.
According to tourism entrepreneurs, targeting a 100 per cent growth in arrival of foreign tourists within the next two years is unrealistic also in the backdrop of annual average growth standing at less than 15 per cent at present. Also to be noted is the fact that the country was able to achieve the target of drawing in one million annual tourists – a goal set for year 2011 – only in 2017.
According to Sakya, the government should have set a wider vision of drawing almost five million additional tourists annually after 10 years, which would have been comparatively feasible.
Tourism stakeholders said that the growth of tourism industry and inflow of foreign tourists highly depends on the state of our tourism-related infrastructure, including international and domestic airports, tourism promotion activities and formation of skilled human capital.
“Extreme reforms in all these sectors are not possible overnight,” said Sakya.
A few days ago, economist Bishwo Poudel had told The Himalayan Times that the unrealistic tourist inflow target set in the budget was one of its greatest drawback.
Moreover, official data reveal that Nepal was able to increase the number of foreign tourists by less than 250,000 over the last seven years. Government statistics show that 736,215 foreign tourists had visited Nepal in 2011 while the country was able to draw in one million tourists in 2017.
Amar Man Shakya, president of Hotel Association Nepal (HAN), said that the government should first prioritise the development of tourism infrastructure in the country instead of eyeing impractical tourist arrival targets.
“Tourism growth in any tourist destination is directly linked to its state of infrastructure. Once Nepal is equipped with sound tourism infrastructure, the flow of foreign visitors will automatically increase,” said Shakya.