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Visit Nepal 2020: Is Nepal ready for the Campaign?

Nepal started this year launching its campaign, Visit Nepal 2020, on the first day of the year.

After the succession seen back in 1998 for Visit Nepal, and in 2011 for Nepal Tourism Year, Nepal Tourism Board had announced the campaign for the year 2020 (The campaign was actually set for 2018, which was later postponed to 2020). The campaign was launched in the presence of numerous national and international delegates on 1st January 2020, at Dasarath Stadium. Tourism Minister of India and China were present—the two neighboring countries have been the major asset toward Nepal Tourism in the past years. 

Tourism is Nepal’s largest industry and its largest foreign currency and revenue source. Photo – Hansikar.com

The primary target of this campaign is to bring 2 million tourists and earn a surplus amount of 200 billion rupees. However, Yogesh Bhattarai, the Minister of culture, tourism and civil aviation says the campaign will help enhance Nepal’s image in the international arena. The organizer of the campaign has put effort into providing discount packages to tourists from reputed organizations such as the Hotel Association of Nepal, Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agent, Trekking Agencies Association of Nepal and Home-stay Association of Nepal. Earlier before announcements such as free-visa for tourists were kept forward but that did not happen. Overall, the way stakeholders see it, the organizer has put minimal effort into it.

With all the extravaganza put up by the government for the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign, they have been criticized for spending money on trivial events by the taxpayers, who have kept their eyes keenly, whereas, for the tourists for whom the campaign has been designed, problems are massive. Infrastructure continues to be a major hurdle in tourism promotion of the country. The infrastructure problems begin the very minute tourist lands in Tribhuvan International Airport. The organizers have been unable to give attention to the basic amenities such as public toilets, maps, hygienic environments, garbage cans, and public transport; all of which are in a dismal state.

Seti gorge in its current state. Photo – Sundesh Gurung

What the government has failed to understand is that the campaign is as much as beneficial for the general public as it is for the government. The success of the campaign depends on the involvement of the general public but the public isn’t even aware of the campaign. The organizer did initiate a project called “Aafno Ghar Aafai Banau”, but that just shows the irresponsibility of the government and dire-strait of the country. Without proper planning and a timid execution of what was planned, we cannot assume the campaign to be beneficial for the country and its citizens. 

Our country, Nepal, does have a history of rich culture alongside its natural beauty which no one can deny, but the fact that the country hosts its “Visit Nepal 2020” campaign based on it and not being bothered about the maintenance of this structure seems absurd. It seems like the government is mostly focused on bringing in the two million tourists and earning foreign currency rather than improving services and infrastructures. 

Not just the government, but the people in the tourism industry is plagued by unhealthy competition among service providers as well. From the transport services where they start their journey to the hotels they end their nights at, the services seem to be compromised. The government, the organizer of the campaign and the stakeholders have failed to come to the understanding that quality does not come cheap. Because of this as well, our country Nepal is known as one of the cheapest destinations in the world.

Moreover, the organizer has focused on promotion in the same regular destinations such as Pokhara, Chitwan, Lumbini and Kathmandu Valley. When in reality we have much more than that to offer. Nandini Lahe Thapa, member secretary of the Visit Nepal 2020 says that the required budget for promotion and the whole campaign was estimated to be 1 billion Rupees but only 100 million was only allocated 100 million Rupees. With 1/10th of the estimated budget in hand, the blame should be soley to the organizers as they could have backed out.

Tourism Minister Yogesh Bhattarai was criticized for the timing of his visit to promote the “Visit Nepal 2020” in Australia. Australia is suffering one of the worst bushfire emergencies in its history which resulted in the loss of millions of species. Conveying a message of sympathy would have been ideal, but instead, the Nepalese foreman went on for the promotion.

The misery just doesn’t end here; a week before Visit Nepal 2020 began, Tourism Board lost its CEO, Deepak Raj Joshi. Due to political instability, Joshi could not fight for re-election. Joshi’s tenure was hailed by major stakeholders in the tourism industry.  And to add on it, industrialist Suraj Vaidya was named the national coordinator for the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign by the Prime Minister of Nepal, K.P Oli. Lack of oversight and inexperience of Vaidya led to an embarrassing event where a random picture of a monk praying in front of a Buddha statue was used as a promotional poster in the Underground station in London, the image, however, wasn’t from Nepal; but was from Thailand.

The tourism campaign for Nepal in London promoting a picture from Thailand. Photo – Jagan Karki
The image used to promote Visit Nepal 2020 in London was actually not from Nepal, but Thailand. Photo – Shutterstock

The stakeholders are worried; so are the citizens. The campaign Visit Nepal 2020 portrays the government of Nepal itself, where political maneuvering is slow and rampant. Tourism Minister also making an imbecile move. In a country where the Prime Minister himself hands over the biggest campaign of the year to his related ones, Nepotism can be expected in every corner. Just because the country is rich in culture does not mean it is in a quaint state but instead, is in a dismal state.

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Written by Ashish Rana

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