Nepal’s tourism industry seems to be rebounding. The industry is more optimistic now than several weeks ago. Safety assurances, especially for trekking areas have helped. As have the relaxing of travel advisories from other governments. Nepal should continue to be promoted as a safe destination to visit, but there should also be a focus on using the impact of the earthquake to come up with innovations and improvements to the tourism industry.
Products and services need to be significantly improved if Nepal is to regain the confidence of incoming tourists and attract more visitors. Improving rural and urban infrastructure, training personnel and developing safe trekking systems would help improve quality and tourist experience.
New products should also be identified and promoted. A focus also needs to go towards rebranding Nepal’s image to reach a wider audience. Nepal does need to encourage more trekkers and mountaineers, but it also needs to attract more leisure tourists and pilgrims from closer by, especially India and China. One way to do so can be by promoting Nepal’s intangible assets.
Some cultural heritage sites were destroyed, though many remain fully intact. What is the larger story behind and around these damaged monuments? These sites are maintained by a diverse set of communities that are more than willing to share their culture and traditions with tourists. The history and significance of damaged heritage sites rests with the artisans who are actively participating to restore them, and with the close-by resident who has a faithful link with the physical assets. Can we promote these intangible assets that are within the hearts and minds of the people of Nepal? The coming months have countless festivals and celebrations. There should be a drive to attract tourists to come to Nepal for these experiences. A particular drive could be towards bringing non-resident Nepalis back for key festivals as a boost to the tourism industry.
Lets promote new and existing products by emphasising the people and the culture. Here are some examples of new destinations and old traditions that tourism entrepreneurs can use to diversify their products. (Hover over map)
Dasain is a biggest festival of the year (September/ October). This 15 day festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil, and is symbolized by goddess Durga slaying the demon Mahisasur. The goddess Durga is worshiped with pujas, offerings and sacrifices throughout Nepal. Dasain also commemorates the great victory of Lord Ram over Ravana, the king of demons.
Pic credit: HOLIDAYWORLD.COM.NP
Tihar, the festival of lights, is celebrated for five days (November). Nepalis worship ‘Yamaraj’, lord of the netherworld, in different forms in these five days. They worship crows, dogs, cows, Goddess Laxmi, themselves, and their siblings. Houses are decorated with candles, oil lamps, and electric light, people celebrate by singing and dancing, while traditional food items are cooked in abundance.
Pic credit: ANTONIONODAR.COM
Indra Jatra is believed to be a festival of classical dances. It is celebrated by both Hindus and Buddhists. One can observe many varieties of traditional Nepali dances on this day. The festival is named after Lord Indra, known as the king of heavens and the god of rain. (August/September)
Pic credit: BLOG.NEPALADVISOR.COM
Tij is a three-day long celebration for women wherein they feast before the day of fasting and sing, dance and pray while celebrating the festival. Hindu women pray for marital happiness, wellbeing of their family and purification of themselves. The festival is traditionally dedicated to Goddess Parvati and her union with Lord Shiva. (August/September)
Pic credit: MYADVENTUREHOLIDAYS.BLOGSPOT.COM
During this four-day festival, commonly celebrated by people in the Terai, devotees worship the rising and setting sun. Men and women prepare special dishes of rice and molasses and feast after an audience with the sun. They take dips in sacred rivers and lakes with a belief that it will bring prosperity and happiness to them and their family (November).
Pic credit: ESSAYSPEECHWALA.COM
Nepali businesses need to introduce new products to the market
Instituting a system of ‘Destination Management Organisations’ for key tourism hubs in Nepal can foster effective collaboration and linkages among tourism entrepreneurs. Tourism associations can support such effort along with the creation of ‘tourism product clusters’. Development of flagship attractions can also go hand in hand with this initiative.
Tourism associations along with the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) should also design and implement an ‘event strategy’ for Nepal. There is now a need to market Nepal’s intangible assets from across the country and calendar. Creating a strategy to promote these intangibles should serve a variety of target markets. Such a strategy may also help to improve seasonality patterns in the tourism industry.
More soft adventure products where higher levels of comfort are required should also be introduced and developed
to cater to older tourists and those that have a shorter vacation time. Such types of products are especially necessary for Asian outbound travellers.
Focus on content and overcome seasonality
Rebranding efforts of Nepal’s tourism sector could begin with training for tour operators, hoteliers, and tourism professionals to focus on storytelling. By working with bloggers and content creators to share stories and build online brand, NTB and trade associations can inspire customer confidence. Effort towards the ‘NepalNow’ website is an encouraging start. As they should, sectors have come together to launch combined efforts and significantly increase their online presence.
Familiarisation tours for tour operators, journalists, travel writers and bloggers from Nepal’s key markets (existing and targeted) can complement efforts to create better content and online presence. Various organizations have already taken such an initiative. NTB has to become the main organizing body to help spread clear and consistent message about Nepal.
Seasonal sales campaigns need to be more aware of the domestic market, especially with regular festivals that provide short breaks throughout the year, and academic holidays such as in summer and winter. Better seasonal marketing is very important in Nepal to minimise seasonal fluctuations and improve utilisation of destinations, facilities and services. Better campaigns in Asian markets can significantly mitigate risks from seasonality. Monsoons are cooler in Nepal than India and is a festive period that needs to be leveraged to attract more Indian tourists. More Chinese tourists can be enticed during winter to celebrate the Chinese New Year in Nepal.
Improving Products and Services
The earthquake has provided a unique opportunity for Nepal’s tourism industry to improve the products and services it offers. An immediate form of improvement can come from higher quality services. Training service personnel (e.g. first aid training to porters), certification systems for guides, encouraging guides to learn another language and better communicate Nepal’s intangibles, visitor management training programs for managers and operators, etc. could significantly improve the quality of service of Nepal’s tourism industry. The private sector does need to take initiatives to improve quality, however, NTB and relevant ministries also have a number of responsibilities they must fulfil:
- Upgrade runway and taxi space, as well as management at Tribhuvan
International Airport (Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil
- Design and implement improved and expanded tourism market research
systems covering data collection, research, analysis and information
dissemination. This effort can start by conducting exit surveys at
the airport and key attractions (Ministry of Culture, Tourism and
- Design and implement a new electronic application process for tourist
visas to Nepal (Department of Immigration)
- Design and enforce tourism/land use planning policies and practices,
mainly with regard to planning controls, waste management at
sensitive destinations (Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of
Federal and Local Development, etc.)
- Develop and enforce international standards for health and safety
across all aspects of the tourism supply chain
Tourism is down, but not out, Om Astha Rai
An opportunity for all: Nepal is open to visitors
Fixing tourism, Karma Gurung
Where have all the tourists gone?, Tsering Dolker Gurung
Can Nepal attract half a million pilgrims by 2024?