Nepal keen to boost religious tourism | Sunday Observer

Nepal keen to boost religious tourism

15 December, 2019

With an ambitious initiative to attract a large number of religious tourists from the world over, the Nepal government is working to provide the necessary infrastructure in a holistic and sustainable manner by partnering with development and funding agencies including the Asian Development Bank.

“We have embarked on upgrading and building infrastructure that are needed to facilitate economic growth and tourism in particular and to this end the second international airport in Lumbini is expected to be operational by mid next year. We are working towards ensuring air connectivity as well as road connectivity to provide seamless transportation facilities to potential tourists who will be visiting the country,” Chief Executive Officer of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) Deepak Raj Joshi told a group of journalists of South Asian countries who toured Kathmandu recently.

Nepal will launch an ambitious campaign next year to revive its tourism sector by raising the inflow of tourists in the Himalayan country which was hit by strong earthquake in 2015 and political instability for years.

‘Visit Nepal 2020’ begins with a slogan ‘lifetime experiences’, targeting over two million foreign tourists from the present level of arrival of more than a million tourists.

The landlocked country saw an average 25 per cent increase in tourists even after the powerful earthquake struck it, officials said, adding that the new campaign will help them regain the spirit of tourism for meeting the 2020 target. According to Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) officials, 1.17 million tourists arrived in the country in 2018, followed by 940,218 in 2017 and 753,002 in 2016. A local media report said 975,557 tourists visited the country by air and road as of October this year.

Arrival of tourists in the rest of months after 2015 earthquake dropped by 45 per cent.

The NTB data showed that though arrival of Indian tourists increased during the last two years followed by Sri Lanka, the number of tourists from Bangladesh decreased by 9.3 per cent last year. The fall in tourists was attributed to a US-Bangla plane crash which happened at Tribhuvan International Airport, the lone international airport in Nepal, in March 2018.

“We are back into track after different kinds of crises,” he said.

He also expressed the hope that the tourists will be able to enjoy thousands of festivals and visit world heritage and nature sites, taking advantage of political stability. Which the country is experiencing at present.

When asked about tourism packages, the CEO said 40 per cent of tourism packages have been developed with private initiatives of travel agencies of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The NTB has also been making efforts to make the year-long program a success, he added.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) organised the regional media trip for the journalists from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Sri Lanka and Nepal to make them aware of various earthquake-resilient activities in Nepal and the scope of tourism and trade opportunities in regional context.

It arranged visits to different project sites including a school in Dhulikhal as part of its support to build earthquake-resilient school buildings in Nepal and the country’s second international airport named Gautam Buddha International Airport.

“The ADB also supports the mission of Visit Nepal 2020 to make it successful,” said the CEO. The NTB has designed Visit Nepal 2020 with three concepts--culture, adventure and nature in providing lifetime experience, mapping out a series of events such as summiteers’ summit, mountain bike in Gandaki province, Buddha Joyonti, Bivah Panchami and international conference on sustainable tourism and sacred river corridor raft race throughout the year.

“Nepal is back on speed. The year 2020 will be dedicated to sharing our stories of resilience and awaken of spiritual. All is about Nepal in transition to peace,” National Program Coordinator of Visit Nepal Year 2020 Campaign Suraj Vaidya while sharing his views at a reception held in NTB auditorium said.

He also said the year 2020 will be the stories of nature and animals as the country is set to become the first country to double wild tiger population.

Nepal has turned into a federal democratic country, allowing multiparty politics and abolishing monarchy in 2008.

The earthquake measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale killed more than 5,000 people in 2015.

The government of Nepal has taken various reconstruction measures including building standards for earthquake zones in support with the development partners including the ADB with earthquake emergency assistant project to rebuild the nation.