Economists all over the world are saying in one voice that world economy during and after Corona Virus problem, will be the worst one in world’s history after First World War. In this scenario Nepal’s economy cannot be an exception. Only one issue should be ascertained by our experts, especially economists- where Nepal will stand in the aftermath of the epidemic in comparison to 195 countries of the world or to 48 countries of Asia?Among all sectors, obviously, travel and tourism sector will suffer the most in the entire world due to lockdowns and travel restrictions all over the world. As many experts rightly opine that tourism industry could be a game-changer in Nepal’s economy, study and analysis regarding the impact of Coronavirus epidemic in tourism sector is of utmost importance.
The extent of positive effect of tourism in Nepal’s economy could be imagined by conclusion drawn in a report of World Bank study. The report says- “With every six tourist arrivals to Nepal, one new job is created (almost double the global average of 1:11). Tourism also has high spillover effects to the agriculture, transport, aviation, and hospitality sector. Tourist hotels and restaurants provide an important market for agriculture products, and there is tourist demand for agri-tourism experiences and destination-branded special crops (for example, Nepalese specialty tea) to take home as souvenirs.”Hence, the government must act and start homework urgently to revive tourism industry at any cost.
It is a foregone conclusion that revival of tourism industry in Nepal after this virus epidemic shall be much more challenging than the one after the major earthquake of April 2015. It is a matter of common sense that unless the foreign government of tourist-originating country permits to visit Nepal, we cannot expect a single tourist from that country. And no country in the world will allow their citizens to visit Nepal, unless Nepal can prove to outside world that Nepal has become hundred percent virus-free country. On the other hand, our government also should not lift ban on visa to visitors from any country unless we are hundred percent sure that the country has been labeled as hundred percent Virus-free country. Against this scenario, immediately after Virus epidemic is more or less contained in Nepal, it will be futile exercise for stake-holders to focus on effort to bring tourists from European and North American countries, from where traditionally a good number of tourists used to come to Nepal.
Only one possible hope for Nepal’s tourism industry to revive in near future, therefore, is tourists from our neighboring country China. As China is going to be one of the first countries of the world to come out from the epidemic, there is distinct possibility of bringing tourists from China in massive scale, once Nepal can prove that Nepal also has achieved hundred percent virus-free country. Due to geo-political reason also, government of China may be more than interested to help Nepal’s tourism sector by sending more and more Chinese visitors to Nepal. After China, second country of focus could be India. We can only hope that epidemic will also be tackled in India as quickly as possible.
It is likely that for next few years, tourists from both China and India may be reluctant to go for vacation in far-flung European and North American countries, Australia etc. due to not only virus issue but also due to low purchasing capacity of individuals in this changed world economic scenario. On this background, our government and concerned private sector should make extra-effort in massive aggressive way to lure tourists from two most populated countries of the world, China and India. In addition to airlines coming to Nepal from China and India, the four Airbus aircrafts of national flag carrier NAC could be utilized to full extent to bring tourists from two countries.
It will be better if tourism ministry, immediately after lockdown is lifted, constitutes a “Tourism Plan-Ahead Team” (TPAT) constituting of high-level ministry officials, CEO of Nepal Tourism Board, Managing Director of Nepal Airlines Corporation and few stalwarts from private sector. Main function of TPAT could be to make a strategic plan with various scenarios, options and recommended line of action in a fixed time frame to accelerate the flow of tourists from China and India.
By SUGAT RATNA KANSAKAR