Nepali Times
Editorial
Once is enough?



It's a miracle tourists are still coming to Nepal despite everything we do to deter them. Prospective visitors first have to overcome lack of information, shoddy web sites, problems with bookings, and not being able to pay online. The information that is available is dominated by reviews and feedback from tourists complaining about over-charging, grimy hotels, garbage-filled streets, and tourists being stranded for days by shutdowns.

Then there is the cost of getting to Nepal. Leaving aside Bhutan, which has deliberately priced itself into a premium bracket, it is much cheaper and more convenient for tourists to go to neighbouring countries than to come to Nepal. Treks in northern Thailand, Laos and the Indian Himalaya are much more reasonably priced and less of a hassle to get to. With Burma throwing open its doors, visitors now have additional options.

And it is when they land at TIA that arriving tourists find out what we really mean when we promote 'adventure tourism'. The airport is not for the faint-hearted, the queues snake through the dimly lit, low-ceilinged arrival area with few signs showing which line is for what. Tourists without visas end up waiting more than an hour to get through. Once outside, they find they have to pay hefty fees to enter cities that are full of trinket touts, filth and crumbling infrastructure.

Two Tourism Ministers ago there was an effort to try to make the departure holding areas appear less like gas chambers, but they are back to being scruffy, unventilated, and reeking of unwashed latrines. That minister gave up trying to shake off the mafia that controls the fleet of dilapidated airport taxis. However, for proof that it is possible to run a clean and efficient airport, one only needs to climb upstairs to the restaurant and lounge run by the Radisson Hotel.

Less said about TIA's rubber stamp security the better. The four unsolicited pre-departure patdowns are a joke. The airport police's idea of 'beefed up' security is to add another layer of bureaucracy and an extra frisking on the apron before boarding, instead of fixing unserviceable x-ray machines. If it's any consolation, Nepalis are treated even more shabbily than tourists by immigration and customs officials in their own country.

The airport can't be an island of efficiency and integrity when rest of the country is so badly managed, but being a third world nation can no longer be an excuse to be third rate where tourism is concerned. Bringing in a million tourists makes no sense at all if they go home and spread the word that Nepal is a dump.

The sole port of arrival and departure gives the first and lasting impression to visitors, and sadly it shows Nepal in all its grubby microcosm, replicating the squalour, corruption, and the dismissive rudeness of officialdom outside. Down the hill from the airport, the triangular folly known as Tinkune has for more than a decade been a symbol of a failing state. Nepal has the look of a country that doesn't know where it is going, and doesn't care if the rest of the world knows it.

We understand it is a structural problem that stems from the corrupt politics that has blighted not just the tourism industry, but governance overall. And perhaps the poorest country in Asia doesn't deserve to have a slick airport. But if tourism is such an integral part of our economy, and means so much for the image we project about ourselves, the least we can do is to make it easy and pleasant for visitors to come to Nepal, and stay on.

For starters: get rid of the visa requirement for tourists. Stamp their passports and let them stay for two months. Why force them to stand in line for hours filling forms?

There is something that attracts tourists to Nepal even when we make it so difficult for them, just imagine how many more would visit if we removed the aggravations.

Read also:
Happiness is a place, RON CORBEN in PARO
Bhutan tries to balance mass tourism with cultural preservation



1. Raghu

A starting point could be teaching the immigration and security staff basic etiquette. They treat travellers as if they are criminals and that they are doing a favour by letting us go in/out of the airport.

 

 



2. M Smith

Add to this the fact that the domestic airline cartel think it is perfectly acceptable to charge foreigners 2-3 times the normal fare, despite the fact that this is not practiced anywhere else - resulting in some of the highest domestic fares in the region. Even foreign residents living in Nepal for years are not exempted. Imagine the vast areas of the country (beyond Pokhara and Lukla) which would be opened up to tourism if this changed.

Requiring visas is fine for any country, and I do commend the government for offering them on arrival which makes it a lot easier than elsewhere. The process at the airport needs to be streamlined though.



3. Ram Hari Rijal
Tourists always loved Nepal. They did not stop visiting Nepal although they had to pay hefty donation to the Maoist gourrillas. Street vendors are also a pain in their neck.

4. Johann
Bulls eye! This editorial hits the nail on the head. Nepal is a beautiful country, it is full of wonderful people, but its government sucks, its airport stinks, its officials are sinfully corrupt. The reason people keep visiting Nepal is because of its friendly people (number one) and its scenery (number two), but if you could figure out a way to solve the governance issue and make travelling to and withint Nepal easier, a lot more people would visit. I don't think it's the cost, tourists are willing to pay if they get good service, but they don't want any hassles when they pay through their noses. And they don't want to feel like they are being robbed everywhere. The kiosk charging tourists a fee to enter Patan Durabar Square is right next to a garbage pile. 

5. Narayana Pande
Ask Prachanda and other leaders if they have been to Switzerland.  Some lawmakers recently were forced to cancel their " VACATION ON GOVT FUNDS " to Switzerland. Prachnada said something like he will transform Nepal into Switzwerland. Now look at the stinking toilet at the Airport. These leaders are swines for tarnishing  Nepal's image. Similar to Jhala Nath incident, they all need to slapped in public. Throw a shoe at them. Do something. Why all the untouchable status for filthy criminals that are posing as leaders. Is there really no one or no group that can make a differnce in Nepal. What will  it take for the people to wake up and revolt. How can so many things go wrong for so many years. Nepalis have been hanging their heads for too long. Lets stand and fight for our rights.

6. AD
The poorest country in Asia, Ouch.

7. Ripped off

My family and I visited Nepal a few years ago, and as luck would have it, my wife broke her foot shortly before our departure.  Not wanting to cancel the trip, we changed plans so that trekking was no longer part of the itinerary, secured a wheelchair, and set off for Kathmandu.  Arriving at the airport, we were pleased to be assigned a friendly elderly porter to push the wheelchair around.  Pointing out the long lines for visas, he helpfully volunteered to take our forms and fees through officialdom for us.  He did just that, allowing us to sit and chat and sample a mango drink while he handled the paperwork.  Half an hour later, with visas in hand and all our luggage accounted for, I happily gave him a generous tip, which he pocketed without even looking at, which I took as another sign of his good customer service orientation.  It wasn't until departure 3 weeks later that I found out why grandpa didn't bother looking to see how much I had given him.  He had taken money from us for visas for our children, but actually the visas they were issued were gratis (free) for children of their ages, so the tip was only a small fraction of the money that he had earned by scamming us out of the visa money.  When I realized what had happened after looking closely at the visas when filling out departure forms at the airport, I demanded to see a supervisor and filed a complaint, providing my contact details, but perhaps needless to say, never heard a thing. 



8. Jung Bahadur
What can you expect from a leadership that only knows how to lie, cheat and kill.  Communist are thriving in Nepal. What does that tell you.  The  people in power are looting like there is no tomorrow, what can we expect from the lower levels of staffs and employees. The Bahuns in the communist parties of Nepal have forgotten when they used to go to a  CHARPI.  The Bahuns have destroyed Nepal. Its time a Chettri took over. Is there a real Chettri in Nepal today. I don't know.      

9. Radha Dhungel
Gyanendra was just 1 man, 1 King, so the loot was limited to 1 man. Now we have so many KINGS. For example, Pushpa Kamal thinks he is a king, so does Maakuney and also Jhala Nath. What about Bhattarai. Then there  are others in the NC, UML, Maoist and also the Madhises. So, we went from being robbed by 1 man to now being robbed by at least a hundred Kings. All these shameless traitors of Nepal have NO LOVE for Nepal. We need  a really BIG bang. Big enough of to wipe out the corrupted for ever from Nepal. What kind of bang will that be. Who will have the guts or courage to make that happen. The clock is ticking for all of us, there is no time to waste. No more lies of the from the politicians. Make them pay. How can we follow a group of old men, with no vision or strength, that betray Nepal and obey their Indian Brown Sahibs. We Nepalis are really overdue for a change for the better of all 28 millions.       

10. Dil R Joshi

Bingo! I have often tried to find an explanation for what is wrong with our country. And there, in one sentence you have done it:

"Nepal has the look of a country that doesn't know where it is going, and doesn't care if the rest of the world knows it."



11. Bimala Pradhan
Nepal is a beautiful and peaceful country. With the exception of criminal politicians,  the rest of Nepalis are loving and peaceful people. The foreign visitors come for the beauty of Nepal and its honest and friendly people. So, its extremely important for us to find a way to get rid of this gangs of criminals posing as leaders.  The politicians have been on a looting spree since 1990.  Not one honest man has shown up in the radar to stop this loot. Corruption has become a way of life. We know who these looter are. We must bring them to justice. How can Nepali get rid of Gyanendra and Paras and replace them with Pushpa and Prakash. We, Nepalis need to learn from the sacrifices of the people of Eygpt, Libiya, Tunis, Yemen and Syria.  In  the last 20 years, beggar politicians have become wealthy and the rest of the people have become poorer and poorer. One visit, one look around the International Airport can tell you the condition of Nepal. This is the 1st and last impression of our honourable guest that keep coming and pouring money in the economy which is then looted by the likes of Bhattrai, Dahal, Koiralas, Madhav Nepal, Oli, Rawal, Khanal, Paudel, the list goes on and on.............................................. 

12. Janet

Suprising that we read this article in a cybercafe in Thamel today, the day that we flew into Kathmandu from Delhi. It was a one-hour flight, but we spent two hours in line for our visas. We stood in one line and were told when we got to the counter that it was the wrong line, no signs, and the staff was not very helpful. We didn't mind since we were not in a hurry to go anywhere, but it leaves a very poor first impression on visitors. If the Nepal government needs our visa fees, just take our money and stamp the passport, don't make us wait around uselessly. 



13. Savitri Gurung

We Nepali people are so dumb and dumber. We are also blind. We are also deaf.  The political parties and their corrupt and immoral leaders have only spread anarchy and lawlessness. Why do these thugs from UML or NC or Maoist as well as other parties are always getting away with all their criminals activities. Communism  should be dead. Only in Nepal people like Dahal and Bhattarai thrive by murdering people. Why is there no outrage from any quarter. Does this really mean that all the leadership of Nepal is so corrupted that no one can bell the cat.  Do we really not have any honest men in Nepal. The Intl. Airport should going all out to welcome the precious and vauluable tourists. There should be a red carpet for them. But its just the opposite. Right from the start, there is a bad taste in the mouth. Just read what Janet   (  12) has commented. Where does all the visa money really go. My Tibetan friend was harrased by a policeman at the departure gate. He was forced to pay USD 100.00 or he would have missed his flight. This sort of thing happens everyday. Its so disgusting.  Nepal has so far been ruled by only incompetent and really stupid men. Now, its time for a woman to rule Nepal. I think the women of Nepal are much more smarter than men.  Let us join hands in making the next PM of Nepal a woman.  Lets make sure she is not from the NC, UML, Maoist or Madhises. We can nominate her. This is the best solutions. India, Pakistan, Bangaladesh, Sri Lanka, all have done well under the leadership of a woman.   We must change the game in Nepal. We must change the conversation in Nepal.



14. Gauri Shrestha
The current political establishment needs a rude awakening. These good for nothing swindlers must be taught a hard lesson. They must be brought down to the ground from their Ivory Towers. I think they have enjoyed enough Scotch whiskey and Chicken curry and Khasi to sekuwa to last them a life time.  Threre has to be a sea change. The status quo cannot be tolerated or maintained any longer. Too many people have died for peace. Too many people are suffering for too long. The current Nepal is not a State or a Nation of laws but the fiefdom of Criminals and Mafias.  Its time for brave and honest Nepalis to gather and take back their country. We should  Occupying Singha Durbar until these gansters are defeated. Its time for a Mahakali to appear on the stage and start the Tandava.     

15. Nirmal
It's been the only one bold editorial I've ever read in any Nepali newspaper, not because that the editor has pointed out the ills of our tourism sector which are persistent and everybody knows it. But because that finally there is someone, reputed to be the most hardworking journalist of Nepal who has recognised Nepal as a third world country(which obviously is). Believe me, If it was for some national dailies who practically sell advertisements far from serving journalistic stuffs, I'd think that my country is not less than Switzerland with many flyovers, fast tracks and Metro to prevent traffic jam, civilised citizens to care the surroundings, revolutionaries of 21st century to voice for the most debil ones of our society, authentic democrats to protect the fundamental rights etc.

To recognise onself is the biggest deal one needs to do in order to prepare for the better and that's what this editorial has done.

O'Rourke wrote somewhere humorously, " Every government is a parliament of whores however the only trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us."




16. Durga Shrestha
There is just one word for all the political crooks of Nepal in the present day context.  MALI.

17. Saraswati Rai
The inept and corrupt male leaders ( i.e., men ), have failed the Nepali people. This male chauvnistic attitude of this backward society has to disappear. The WOMEN of Nepal must begin to assert their rights, position and privileges as equals or even better than these sorry male population. Its time for a WOMAN to lead. Sisters and Mothers of Nepal, its really high time to kick out these good for nothing, lazy goondas that are destroying our country and the future of our children. The Nepali male has taken us for granted and has been abusing us for too many years.  Its time they got a taste of their own medicine. Its time for a woman's revolution in Nepal.  We should look at the lives of brave, smart women like -  Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi, Benazir Bhutto, Hillary Clinton,  Aung San Suu Kyi, Oprah Winfrey, Rosa Parks....we need someone  like them in Nepal.     

18. Shiva Thapaliya
The Intl Airport is in such filthy condition because our leaders are filthy in their own conditions. All foreign tourist should observe a ban on travel to Nepal. The immigration officials posted at the airport are criminals and they fleece both incoming and outgoing foreign guests as well as Nepalis. The officials have been caught red handed on viedo tapes and the impunity goes on. Who protects the illegal gangs and goons at the airport. Is it Baburam or Dahal. Or is it Koirala or Oli. How can any decent Nepali believe the lies from these filthy and tainted and corrupted, shameless, despicable, group of Nepal's political elite. Nepal is bracing for a new revolution. This time, it will be honest people that will lead it. We must overthrow all the leaders that are in power today. We must take back our rights and privileges.     

19. Suman Shesh
While at airport/government offices, anyone tried to see airport manager/concerned officials including ministers and talk about these feedback so that he/she felt embarrassed and tried to do at least few things they could? May be they feel responsible after our direct concern. I am asking specially Nepalese citizens.  Foreigners are our guests. They should be taken care of.  I believe only gossiping/ debate, does not work in this situation. Until we seek the service we pay for, none would care in the country like Nepal- in editor's word- "a dump". I agree it's been a real dump.- a country of diminishing accountability, civilization, and humanity.......just money money  everywhere not a life to live. I wonder what will  fucking traitors do with the money they accumulate for generations. Why these stupids do not understand the basic philosophy of life. . I am 100% sure mounting up property from wrong way leads to total destruction of their family and relatives making them dependent and corrupted for generations.It's already reflecting in the society to some extent. An example is college students. Most of them never feel like they have struggle of their life ahead. and in most cases that is corrupted  parents' mistake not to encourage them be responsible to their duty, not to teach them a good way to live. They teach in theory but children,who see their parents already in wrong track, by obligation can not adopt the theories in reality. They have been so dependent that they can not think of their own career. How come they will be responsible to their family, society and country.

20. suedip
This is indeed a very thought provoking and powerful editorial. 

Why on earth, do we not privatize or outsource the airport to private companies,the next door India has already boasted with a remarkable example. Leaving the thugs to reform the airport won't curb the ills or waiting for another generation of governance will be only a rhetoric. I commend the editor in pointing to the success case of departue lounge. It already speaks for the possible solution. 

I vividly recall each of times i land back home in TIA, there is such  strong nostalgia and love  to have come back. As i walk through the stairs, i feel my nerves swelling with pride for Nepal, only to realize it shatters to pieces when i reach the arrivals. Apart of the airport, which still pridomonantly lives in an analog age, the old PCs and the hefty ledgers speak the backwardness in itself.What kills the most, is the immigration authorities treating a fellow Nepalese returnee a second class citizen, with abusive and rude words and  low respect.Hardly, anywhere in world, would a citizen need to que for hours than a foreigner, filling unnecessary and stupid forms that ultimately is dumped to rubbish bins. And needless to speak of the Arab migrants, who go through unimaginable harrasment and humiliation. The greatest irony is that a huge bulk of the salaries for these public servants are paid in an economy that survives on chunk of remmitances send from the same people they harass on daily basis.


21. suedip
This is indeed a very thought provoking and powerful editorial. 

Why on earth, do we not privatize or outsource the airport to private companies,the next door India has already boasted with a remarkable example. Leaving the thugs to reform the airport won't curb the ills or waiting for another generation of governance will be only a rhetoric. I commend the editor in pointing to the success case of departue lounge. It already speaks for the possible solution. 

I vividly recall each of times i land back home in TIA, there is such  strong nostalgia and love  to have come back. As i walk through the stairs, i feel my nerves swelling with pride for Nepal, only to realize it shatters to pieces when i reach the arrivals. Apart of the airport, which still pridomonantly lives in an analog age, the old PCs and the hefty ledgers speak the backwardness in itself.What kills the most, is the immigration authorities treating a fellow Nepalese returnee a second class citizen, with abusive and rude words and  low respect.Hardly, anywhere in world, would a citizen need to que for hours than a foreigner, filling unnecessary and stupid forms that ultimately is dumped to rubbish bins. And needless to speak of the Arab migrants, who go through unimaginable harrasment and humiliation. The greatest irony is that a huge bulk of the salaries for these public servants are paid in an economy that survives on chunk of remmitances send from the same people they harass on daily basis.


22. Sachin
Its hard hit but a reality check! Thanks to the leaders (politicians), even the ordinary people, once an icon of honesty are falling in the trap of 'Rat race' for easy money. Corruption is rampant irrespective of level whether one is a taxi driver, a businessman or a government officer. 
How can we expect tourism to grow, while we claim the best and serve the worse. We put piles of rotten garbage in city centers, join direct toilets pipes to make holy rivers stinky and furthermore add our rudeness on top of that; the drivers won't slow down to give passersby safe-way even at Zebra crossings!!
Its will-power of leadership! there can be greenery on the desert sand like in Dubai, there can be clean river like Thames in middle of one of the most populous center of the world, London. And there can be much more polite and hospitable Airport officials like in Bangkok.


23. Nirmala Rana
ONCE IS NOT ENOUGH !  WE NEED MORE AND MORE OF THE SAME. WHO ARE WE KIDDING !  The Nepali elite, both in govt, and business as well as the political parties have been using and abusing us every day. No one is making any serious impact  against this horrible abuse. Just look at the picture. Who is in charge. No one. Everyone is so busy making a quick and a fast buck. Its a bigger shame that the foreign diplomats and donor agencies are so apathetic as well. If they cannot help a common Nepali, they should return to their countries. How can a society and the country of Nepal be so corrupted.  Nepalis have always come last in everything. Nepalis have no shame. Nepalis know only how to steal, that is why a killer like Dahal is thriving. What a shame. Nepal used to so peaceful and so beautiful in every way. 

24. Lato Kosero

 The first paragraph is simply not true, if it were, Nepal would have decreasing rather than increasing visitor numbers.

As for the secondNorthern India treks? Where??? Would be interested in how the editor found info let alone estimated prices? As for Lao and Thailand, the cost of treks there are much more pricey and certainly not less! (That's the trouble with an 'editorial', anything can be claimed with impunity and most readers haplessly believe it.)



25. Shaka Zulu

To be sure, entrenched, pampered bureaucrats have the power and run the day to day show throughout Nepal. They have been deep-rooted for decades. Even an honest and well-meaning politician cannot be everywhere at once and if they might do a spot visit, bureaucrats put on top performance. Bureaucrats are usually just clever enough to avoid a supervisory eye. Otherwise, no one can police them as these bureaucrats hold the power and status, and no-one dares confront them...actually Maoists confronted for 10 years but the bureaucrats have since only clawed deeper into their corrupt ways, trying to eke out as much ill-gotten money as they can before being replaced once and for all.

Any guess from which sector of society these self-serving pompous administrators are spawned?



26. Oliver
As a foreigner who has been to Nepal a zillion times, it's great that you can get a visa on arrival, unlike neighbouring India. But if Nepal is serious about tourism, it's not a beautiful modern airport that it needs, but it does need to a) replace all immigration officials on both the Nepali and foreigner desks b) make the process singular (why require 3-4 people to process each visa) c) stop pretending that any of those scanners work and get rid of them d) get rid of the corrupt officials trying to get money from Nepalis returning from the middle east on the way out, and e) don't let queues get longer than 6 people. 

27. Salil P
This article hits the bull eye. Apologies to all the foreign nationals who are mistreated, swindled and misinformed. The first thing that needs to change is the rude and long-faced immigration officers on arrival or departure. The way they deal with their clients is akin to dealing with prisoners (even prisoners deserve a polite deal). 

I am a Nepali, love my country and I am aware that it may not be possible to change our airport into a sleek, lubricated machine in a short span of time. But a smile on the face of the officials can be added, their behaviour towards the passengers can be improved and the queues could be shortened with efficient management.

It is indeed amazing that foreigners still visit Nepal despite numerous impediments and we should be grateful to them for their visit, for they know beyond that squalor of an airport and the garbage piles around the city that they land in, there lies the Shangri-la, where heaven meets the earth.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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