Post-earthquake, Nepal tourism bouncing back

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Published: July 1, 2015 6:30:13 AM

Impressions and perceptions have a way of changing with the passage of time. Sixty-six days ago, Nepal was in the news for all the wrong reasons, or so it seemed, given the wide and largely negative media coverage of the devastation and ravage caused by the April 25 earthquake.

Impressions and perceptions have a way of changing with the passage of time. Sixty-six days ago, Nepal was in the news for all the wrong reasons, or so it seemed, given the wide and largely negative media coverage of the devastation and ravage caused by the April 25 earthquake.

Then, it was conveyed through various mediums of communication that one of the world’s less well off economies was spiraling downward due to a natural calamity striking the nation after 81 years.

The start of a week-long visit to the Kathmandu Valley, Chitwan District and the Pokhra Valley, courtesy of the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), suggests initially that nothing could be further from the truth.

Embarking on a Royal Nepal flight (Sagarmatha- the name by which Mt. Everest is known in Nepal) from New Delhi, one expected to see on arrival, collapsed buildings, damaged temples and heritage sites, and wide cracks in major thoroughfares of Kathmandu, but saw instead, a bustling city with a business as usual attitude, and no sign of fear of the unexpected on faces of its people.

A meeting with senior NTB representatives reinforced this view. Ramesh Kumar Adhikari, its administrative chief, told ANI that the Government of Nepal was initially disturbed and quite annoyed by the negative media coverage and perception of the post-earthquake period, and added that, “We are looking to India as the first country to help us to boost tourist inflows into Nepal.”

“New Delhi can be a crucial communicator on the actual position post-quake. We acknowledge that some heritage sites have experienced some damage, and are also well aware that Nepal is not a place to offer ultra-modern facilities, but as a nation, we have a large and great heart. This earthquake is the biggest to hit the nation after 1934. The economic and psychological impact has been huge as a result of it, but I would like all of you (Indian media delegation) to see it from another perspective – that Nepal became better known as a result of the earthquake,” he added.

In terms of asset and economic loss, Adhikari said it was an estimated 20 billion Nepali and 60 billion Nepali respectively based on the last year’s calculations. He said that there has been a 40 percent drop in tourist inflow post the earthquake, but expressed confidence that “we will reach somewhere close to last year’s figures in terms of tourism revenue.”

Moving to specifics, he said the NTB and the Government of Nepal earns 40 percent from adventure mediums such as trekking, river rafting, para-gliding and bungee jumping etc., and 60 percent from its culture and religious circuits.

When asked for tourist statistics, Adhikari and Ujjwala Dali (Senior Manager, Tourism Marketing and Promotions at the NTB) said that in 2014, there were eight lakh tourist arrivals between January and December from all countries, and of these, about two lakh were Indians.

Dali, however, told ANI that there has been a 20 to 25 percent drop in Indian tourist visits to Nepal over the last three years, as a majority now prefer to visit other destinations in the Asia-Pacific region, such as Singapore, Bangkok, Indonesia and Malaysia, besides places in Europe and North America.

“This could be attributed to greater disposable income access,” she added.

Dali said that apart from the media, tour operators as well could be motivated to contribute to turning around the image of Nepal tourism. She was particular in mentioning that heritage sites in Nepal that had suffered damage had been reopened from June 15.

“We may have lost a (tourist) season, but we are taking concrete steps to get back to where we were,” said Adhikari, adding that future plans included attending tourism-related fairs and events in India and in other parts of the world.

“We also plan to organize cultural interactions, as not many are covered by the media at this point in time,” he added.

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