Visit Nepal Year put off due to rebuilding delays

August 20, 2017

Sangam Prasain, The Kathmandu Post, 20 Aug 2017  

The Tourism Ministry has postponed the Visit Nepal Year 2018 campaign to 2020 due to the slow pace of road and airport upgradation projects and reconstruction of historical monuments and cultural heritage sites.

“As we had little time to make preparations for the national campaign, we have decided to reschedule it,” said Ghanshyam Upadhyaya, spokesperson for the Tourism Ministry. “However, the ministry will launch a massive marketing campaign in 2019 before starting Visit Nepal Year 2020 that envisages attracting 1.5 million tourists.”

Two key infrastructure projects, the upgradation of Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) and Lumbini’s Gautam Buddha International Airport, have been deferred till 2019.

With TIA strained to capacity, airport managers and airline operators have to scramble to ensure smooth movement during the peak season.

The $92-million TIA upgradation project, originally slated to be completed in March 2016, has been pushed back to 2019 due to the tardiness of the contractor. After the completion of the project, TIA will be able to handle more than 5.85 million passengers annually and accommodate bigger aircraft.

Likewise, the completion date of the Gautam Buddha Airport project has been extended till 2019 as work has slowed to a crawl due to a dispute over payments between the contractor and an illegally appointed subcontractor.

The airport was originally slated to be ready in December 2017. After the first phase of the upgradation project, Gautam Buddha Airport will have a capacity to handle 600,000 passengers annually.

The airport in Bhairahawa, the gateway to the pilgrimage destination of Lumbini in south central Nepal, is being upgraded to an international airport.  Similarly, Visit Nepal Year has had to be postponed due to delays in the expansion and upgrading of the Narayanghat-Mugling road, Kathmandu Ring Road Improvement Project and reconstruction of monuments and heritage sites damaged by the 2015 earthquake.

In Kathmandu, the open trenches and dusty patches left by workers who have dug up the streets to lay water pipes and sewage systems don’t set the stage for attracting tourists, officials said.

“We should not conduct a tourism campaign for the sake of ceremony. We need to think practically,” said Upadhyaya, adding that the target of hosting 1.5 million tourists seems realistic and attainable considering the available infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Nepal is seeing an unprecedented boom in hotel construction that will add 4,000 star category rooms by 2020. A dozen hotels are injecting more than Rs40 billion into the industry.

The Tourism Ministry has tabled a proposal for the approval of the formation of a main steering committee at the Cabinet to host the tourism campaign. “It will be a public, private and local government-led committee,” Upadhyaya said.

With regard to marketing, the government will focus on a massive marketing campaign in China and India and niche marketing strategy in Australia, Europe and the US.  

In 2015, the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment report had urged the government to announce 2017-18 as Visit Nepal Year to assure visitors that reconstruction and rehabilitation will be completed by then. There is a need to re-build and re-brand the image of tourism, and significant efforts and resources will be required to do this, the comprehensive report prepared by the National Planning Commission said. Subsequently, the Policy and Programmes for 2016-17 announced the launch of Visit Nepal Year 2018.