By Sudhan Subedi
Nepal is known to the rest of the world as a country with unique culture and people. These attributes make Nepal an open museum where one can see wonderful mosaic of people from different ethnicities and castes. Though western world see Nepal more as a country of mighty Everest and other towering peaks, which might create an impression to tourists as an adventure destination, other integral part of pie is Nepal’s culture and people.
Smiling people, land of Gurkhas and Sherpas, where hospitality is not taught but comes organically with every Nepali, are some among many accolades that Nepal has received over these decades. Talk about Newars – the indigenous inhabitants of Kathmandu. Not a single day end without festivities in their calendar. Feasting and observing festivals together are few among many other unique things that we can observe in Kathmandu.
Tourism is all about experiencing something new. People from Middle East, who see plains and desert, will jump in the air when they see mountains and rivers in Nepal. Similarly western tourists might be interested in Nepal’s people and culture. What can be a medium to connect these potential tourists to Nepal?
With the promulgation of new constitution, a new vibe has been seen among tourism entrepreneurs. The country with abundant tourism potential needs promotion and has to reach its perspective tourists. Though graph of people attending tourism fair is on the decline, we cannot ignore these fairs altogether. These are platforms where buyer meets seller and sees tremendous opportunity to expand his business.
The main thrust of promotion now is based on digital media — be it web based promotions or application of social media or mobile apps. Today’s and tomorrow’s world of promotion cannot reach to perspective market without proper use of these new medium. The world is shrinking, but, over the years, the scope of tourism is growing. Places like Pokhara, which is also known as tourism capital of Nepal and remembered for its pristine beauty, now has wide variety of adventure activities ranging from bungee to zip line, and paragliding to ultra light flights. Some more are in the offing.
The message needs to reach to the world that Pokhara is not only home to Machhapuchre, the Fishtail Mountain, but also to extreme adventures. What can be a better way to spread this message than social media? A research shows that people with smart phone has more tendency to travel to those who read paper. So it would be a good idea to get more digital presence of the country.
After earthquakes of April and May, the western world carried a negative image of Nepal for long which is working in some cases till date. Despite the fact that all tourist areas of Nepal are totally safe and went through minimum damage, decline in tourists’ arrival from major generating market was visible. It is the time when Nepal needed tourists more than any other period of time. Tourists in the same time are getting an opportunity to see Nepal being rebuilt. Social media apps like Instagram are very powerful and effective in showing the world the present situation of Nepal. Only eleven out of 75 districts, three out of 35 popular trekking routes were affected by the earthquake. Most of them are being rehabilitated. Though these facts are clearly visible in social media, mainstream news site still contain picture of devastation which is now a history.
Similarly users of Facebook are bigger than population of China. Twitter has its own users and is popular for quick updates. These are some of applications which are followed by major groups of people.
The world tourism crossed 1 billion arrivals in 2012 and as a result, the relationship between travel and technology is getting closer than ever, with businesses continuing to turn to social media to promote their services and reach customers in a more intimate and personal way. Good thing about social media is that it comes in the form of personalized message or status from person one is connected with. Peer group recommendations are considered the strong push factor for making purchase decisions. In this fashion, choice of next destination is done largely by peer recommendations which now come through social media. Because of these factors, presence in social media is not only necessary but a must to be sustained in the market.
A recently held exhibition of photographs taken by Toni Hagen in Kathmandu showed how Nepal looked some 65 years ago. We are blessed with richness in both tangible and intangible heritage which were clearly seen in those vintage photos. A point to work now rests on familiarizing world with unmatched products that Nepal had and still it has by use of social media.
Tourism industry is one of the sectors that have benefited the most from the Internet and as a result social media has become an integral part of any central tourism promotion and planning. This has been evident from recent #NepalNOW campaign. During tough time too, this platform was instrumental in connecting to the world and showing visitors their own experience.
User generated contents are now considered more trustworthy than words of promoter themselves. Social media in this regard has its outstanding presence in the national tourism scenario. A creative publicity and promotional campaigns in print and electronic media adopted over the past 10 years country has considerably imprinted the image of the country. This will keep on growing with the use of digital and social media. It is more beneficial for country like ours where photography, in still or video, finds its best shot. In recent days, most shared items in social media are about trekking and activities done in Nepal. Such posts have been going viral owing to the visual appeal that they carry. Social media, hence, should be part of all promotional endeavors of national tourism organization and private sector. The government also needs to give special focus on promotion toward this end.
(The author is the Officer at Nepal Tourism Board)