Post Covid-19: Opportunities and challenges of domestic tourism in Nepal

As domestic tourism has never been a priority of the travel industry of Nepal, it has now become imperative to motivate Nepalese to travel and understand the beauty that the country possesses.

KATHMANDU: For the last 70 years, Nepal’s tourism industry has always considered foreign tourists as their source of income, thus neglecting domestic tourists to their dismay.

Previously, in many trekking areas Nepalese trekkers were not treated with respect and preference was always given to foreign trekkers.One of the reasons behind this ill-treatment could be lack of awareness among tourism entrepreneurs operating in the Himalayan region about the importance of domestic tourists.

We have been talking about sustainable tourism for the last few decades giving importance to tangible tourism products. However, we have grossly neglected the people as a product who are responsible for sustainable tourism. To sustain the tourism industry, domestic tourism is a key factor but it is often overlooked by dollar fueled projects. After the outbreak of COVID-19 in our part of the world, we realized that tourism is not only about foreign tourists visiting the country but also Nepalese travelling to different parts of the country.

Realizing the importance of domestic tourism to keep Nepali tourism businesses afloat after the corona pandemic is over XcelTrip Nepal has shifted its focus from international tourists to domestic tourists. Many experts believe that it will take a year for international tourists to resume regular movement.

Despite the pandemic taking its toll, a few countries have already started preparing to invite foreign tourists by offering various packages and also adopting necessary precautionary measures. However, no such type of preparation has been started yet in Nepal. So it appears that the movement of tourists in Nepal will not resume as early as expected and till then it becomes important for tourism entrepreneurs to survive at any cost.

To cope with the situation hotels and airline companies can make their policies flexible. But that is not so with the trekking industry which totally depends on international visitors. Their very existence is in trouble in the absence of trekkers. Trekking is still not an organized sector like the hotel and airline industry. And it is also difficult for the government to provide financial support to guides and porters due to lack of clear evidence of their contribution to the tourism industry though it is huge. For them, domestic tourism is not an alternative. So to sustain their livelihood, the government must devise some kind of mechanism to get them engaged before the resumption of regular trekking activities.

As domestic tourism has never been a priority of the travel industry of Nepal, it has now become imperative to motivate Nepalese to travel and understand the beauty that the country possesses. The money that has been earmarked for Visit Nepal 2020 should be used to promote domestic tourism instead of making more distorted Yeti statues. Motivation is a strong factor that attracts people to travel. Nepal Rastra Bank’s data shows that Nepalese spent a whopping Rs 48 billion on foreign holidays in the first half of fiscal year 2018/19. Meanwhile, spending by foreign tourists in Nepal in the same period was Rs 36.5 billion. It clearly shows that if we are able to Nepalese travelers to travel within Nepal, it will make a huge difference to our economy.

All services in the tourism industry in Nepal are designed targeting foreign travelers whether it is hotel/restaurant or transportation. So, domestic packages that suit Nepali travelers should be developed and promoted in the post-pandemic period. Trekking, rafting and other adventure activities are still not the priority of Nepalese while travelling because they believe that these are meant for foreigners. But we have seen Nepalese people enjoying adventure sports in other countries. It is high time to change the mindset of Nepalese travelers that they can also enjoy them equally in Nepal.

XcelTrip, being the first Online Travel Aggregator of Nepal is mulling a strategic partnership with hotels and other service providers to promote domestic travel packages that are affordable for Nepalese travelers. It is very important for the survival of the tourism industry of Nepal. I believe that Nepalese travelers are not miserly when it comes to spending on themselves. But in the absence of promotion of destinations, many tourist destinations beyond Pokhara and Chitwan are in shambles and they need a special promotion from the government and Nepal Tourism Board.

Since the tourism industry is driven by the private sector in Nepal, we expect promotional and marketing strategies from the concerned associations backed by Nepal Tourism Board and the government.
Sarad Pradhan
Deputy Country Director and Head of Business Development and Communications
XcelTrip Nepal

Sarad Pradhan |
Thursday September 3, 2020, 10:55:30 AM |

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