CB Adhikari : Kathmandu, Dec 31 : The year 2018 is almost over and we are on the eve of the New Year 2019.
The year 2018 has been proved a historic one in view of the promotion of domestic tourism as over one million foreign tourists, the ever highest number, visited Nepal in this period, sending a wave of new hope and encouragement to the tourism industry.
As their business grew, it was obviously a matter of joy and celebrations for the people concerned. The creation of conducive environment for the tourist arrivals is accredited for the increase in the number of foreign tourist arrivals.
According to the Nepal Tourism Board’s statistics, in the (first) 11 months of the year 2018, (foreign) tourist arrivals surpassed the one million. In this period, the country welcomed 1,001,930 tourists arrived from different parts of the world.
In the previous year, this figure was around one million while 753,000 tourists visited Nepal in 2016.
The NTB believed that the promotional programmes organised in China and India targeting Nepal’s tourism helped attract more tourists this year to home. Besides, the contribution of domestic tourists could not be ignored to the escalation of the entire tourism business. The tour and expedition culture is being developed among the Nepalis.
Lately, several new tourist destinations have been identified and people are being encouraged for visits. The government has indentified 100 touristic destinations and announced for their promotions.
The government has already declared to celebrate the year 2020 as the Nepal Visit Year with the target of bringing in two million tourists.
The Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has been working to go with the promotional activities at national and international towards that end by forming a committee. As stated by the Hotel Association of Nepal, the number of beds in country’s hotel at present is 37,000 and more 6,000 beds will be added by 2020.
In the existing situation, hotels in the country are able to accommodate 2.5 million tourists. Ten new five star hotels are under constructions inside and outside the Kathmandu Valley. The tourism ministry is planning to replace the 40-year-old Tourism Act- 2035 BS (1978) with a new one. The draft of a new act has been already prepared and the document is in the process of endorsement.
The Montreal Convention implemented
The Government of Nepal for the first time has implemented Montreal Convention on 15th December, 2018.
The Montreal Convention 1999 (MC99) establishes airline liability in the case of death or injury to passengers, as well as in cases of delay, damage or loss of baggage and cargo.
It unifies all of the different international treaty regimes covering airline liability that had developed haphazardly since 1929. MC99 is designed to be a single, universal treaty to govern airline liability around the world. With the implementation of it, the insurance of the passengers have been increased by six folds.
The wide body purchase in dispute
The Nepal Airlines Corporations purchased national flag bearer air craft remained in high controversy. The debate on the purchase of the wide body air craft is still in hot debate in the parliament and street.
The Public Account Committee and International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives have summoned the line Ministry and concerned offices for the further discussion to this effect.
The NAC has made preparations to make the flights in new four destinations by upcoming March. The destinations are Japan, China, South Arabia and South Korea. Similarly, the wide body aircraft is scheduled to make flights to Osaka of Japan and Gawajaoma of China by February first week and by March respectively.
The NAC has two wide body aircrafts and two narrow body aircraft and one Boeing Aircraft for international flights.
Blacktopping in TIA
The TIA has forwarded blacktopping process in its runway. The airport now has made open for 22 hours daily. The government has aimed at developing the airport into the boutique airport where Nepali culture could be reflected. The internal management and external outlooks of the airport has been totally changed these days.
International Conventions – the basis for promoting tourism
The national and international conferences held in the country have also significantly contributed towards tourism promotion.
The Second Himalayan Travel Mart-2018 considered the biggest event in the tourism sector was held in Kathmandu on June 1 and 2. The event was organized by the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)’s Nepal Chapter at the initiation of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. Fifty nine companies from 26 countries had participated in the Mart.
The organization of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Summit in Kathmandu on August 30 and 31 was another event that aided in promoting Nepal’s tourism. The arrival of the Heads of State and the Heads of Governments of the BOMSTEC member countries and their delegates contributed towards that. The Summit was useful in introducing Nepal in the international level.
The guests from various countries came to Nepal to attend the Asia Pacific Conference held in the capital city on December 1 and 2. This conference also has important contribution to promote the country’s tourism. Cambodian Prime Minister and Myanmar’s State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu-Kyihad visited the country. Nepal and Cambodia signed an agreement to establish direct air link between them, which is considered to be fruitful to the tourism sector.
Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli laid the foundation stone for the construction of the Dharahara on December 27. Dharahara, an iconic tower of historical importance, collapsed during the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake. A new Dharahara is being constructed beside the remnants of the old one, within two years, which will boost tourism.
The construction of the Gautam Buddha International Airport, a ‘national pride’ project, in Bhairahawa has moved ahead expeditiously. This airport will have into operation within July 2019.
Likewise, the construction of the regional international airport in the tourism hub Pokhara is moving ahead at a war-footing.
Process for the construction of the much-awaited second international airport at Nijgadh of Bara district has also picked up momentum.
There were both positive and negative episodes in the tourism sector throughout the year. The news of ‘fake rescue’ of mountaineers and trekkers found coverage in the international media. The Ministry of Tourism formed an investigation committee to probe into this scam and forwarded the process for action.