After getting fed up with the continuous strikes and bandhs, tourism entrepreneurs have emphasized the need for the government and the political parties to recognize the tourism industry as a zone of peace.
"The government now needs to bring the tourism industry under the Essential Services Act in order to protect such a vital but susceptible sector," said Pramod Dahal, Managing Director of the Columbus Travels & Tours (P) Limited.
Dahal, who also is the MD of the Columbus Holidays (P) Limited, suggested that the government should ensure an unhindered movement of tourists across the country even during strikes.
"The government needs to take the tourism industry as the country’s prioritized industry. This is such a sector that generates not only foreign currencies but also creates a lot of jobs within the country," he said. If the visiting tourists feel that they are fully safe and do not face any problem while visiting various destinations, they will return with positive impression. Then, they will promote the country as a tourist destination through their word of mouth, he said.
Saying that the reemergence of the ‘strike culture’ had adversely affected the country’s economic sector as a whole, he stressed the need for giving up this form of protest.
"We have lost our destination image in the international tourism market because of frequent strikes and bandhs that may have both short and long-term impacts on the tourism industry," he said.
During the first three weeks of May alone, a lot of prospective tourists have cancelled their bookings. The number of visitors who have shortened their trips to Nepal is also very high, he said.
If the current political turmoil keeps going for some days, it will affect the tourism sector even in the upcoming autumn. "We now need to create a more tourism-friendly environment in the country in order to take both international tour operators and potential tourists in confidence," he said.
Showing his serious concern over the attack on some tourist vehicles by the strikers in Kathmandu and some parts of the country, he said that such activities are sure to tarnish the destination image.
"The political parties and various ethnic and other groups need to realize even their minor negligence may have detrimental effect on the tourism sector that is gradually recovering. So, they should be aware of this," he said.
Talking about the country’s tourism marketing, he blamed that the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has not been able to market and promote the country’s unlimited tourism resources in the international arena.
"In the initial phase, the NTB used to cite the budgetary crunch as a barrier. At present, the public-private partnership organization has a lot of resources, but it has failed to utilize them properly," he said.
He suggested that the NTB and the private sector should jointly promote the country in various tourist generating markets only after carrying out proper researches.
He said that Nepal now needs to focus on the two giant neighbours—India and China—in order to give a boost to the country’s tourism industry.
"As the economic condition of the people in China and India has been improving significantly, we have to tap those markets," he said.
He suggested that the government must concentrate its efforts on developing tourism infrastructure. "Once we have sufficient infrastructures, Nepal will be a much preferred destination internationally because we have more comparative advantages," he said.
Delving into the unhealthy practices in the country’s tourism sector, he said that the government should set up body to monitor the quality of services being provided by tour operators and hotels.
"Because of the cutthroat competition, our service quality is being degraded and we are turning into a cheap destination. Thus, we are damaging ourselves," he said.
He said that Nepal must learn how to operate quality tourism from Bhutan and Tibet (China). "We should offer better services to tourists. We could lengthen their stay in the country by developing more destinations," he said.