Difficult times for tourism industry

The ongoing Indian blockade and the unrest in Tarai belt has dealt a severe blow on Nepali tourism industry which was gradually recovering after the devastation caused by the earthquake of April 25 and aftershocks that followed. The blockade has thrown cold waters on the hopes of tourism entrepreneurs who were expecting tourist arrivals to pick up.

Hotels are near to empty even though this happens to be the main tourist season. Major tourist destinations are quiet in lack of tourism activities. International flights are being cut as the government has not been able to provide aviation fuel to them. Tour operators are facing difficulty in ferrying tourists to different destinations due to fuel shortage. Hotels and restaurants do not have LP gas to prepare meal. As a result, many eateries have trimmed their menu and are preparing food by using firewood. Tourists, who are already here, have started to cut their visits, and those who have not reached Nepal yet are canceling their trips. Such activities will have long-term impact on Nepali tourism and it will be very hard to repair our destination image.

Tourism is considered a very sensitive throughout the world. Situation in a destination, greatly affect movement of tourists. Most of the tourists coming to Nepal are repeated visitors. They come here because of Nepali hospitality and traditions. But these tourists might opt for other destinations if they face difficulty here. Nobody comes to foreign land just to experience hardships that too paying a huge amount of money. Increasing frequency of bandas and strikes might lead tourists opting to other destinations. If it happens, it will be a disaster for Nepali tourism industry.

It is a matter of great concern that political parties have failed to understand the sensitivity of our tourism industry. Interestingly, all political parties, while celebrating Nepal Tourism Year in 2011, had declared that they will never call a strike. But they didn’t live up to their commitments. But it is not that they are not aware of the economic impacts that bandas and strikes make on national economy. The impact is even severe on hospitality industry.

It is high time the government and Madhes-based parties initiated formal dialogues to resolve the situation. The government should also initiate talks with India at the diplomatic level to resume supplies of daily essential including petroleum products. It should not hesitate to raise the issue in internal forums if India continues to strangulate us without any reasons whatsoever.

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