25-31 October 2013 #678

Dying to go to Nepal

Whatever it is we are doing in tourism, we are doing something right because Nepal tops thecharts in just about every CNN survey of the 10 countries that people say they would like to right up there in the Grumpiness Index, and this week came news that Nepal shares the distinctionof being among the countries where modern day slavery is most prevalent. These are welldeserved recognitions.

Let’s look at it this way: in this day and age of global tourism, any publicity is good publicity. So when this great nation of ours (where the Buddha, I would like to emphatically reiterate, was born) is singled out after DNA analysis as the country of origin of the cholera epidemic in Haiti, it gives us invaluable international publicity and exposure. At last people can locate us on a map and know that we are a sovereign independent nation that was never colonised by any alien power, including invaders from the Planet Voth.

Still, it is this humble scribe’s submission that we haven’t done enough to let the world know about what other nasty surprises we have in store. We have to ask ourselves: has this undertaker government (um, sorry, caretaker government) tapped all the resources at its disposal to proactively generate even more publicity to boost visitor numbers to this country ahead of Why Visit Nepal Year 2014 (Official Motto: ‘Dying To Get There’)?

As a voluntary service to the tourism industry, the Donkey is generously offering unsolicited advice to the Nepal Tourism Bored so that we can hit that magic 1 million tourist mark next year:

1 Make the line for tourists at immigration in Kathmandu airport even longer. At the moment, after a one hour fright from Delhi, visitors have to wait for only two hours in the visa-onarrival line. This just won’t do. We should reduce the number of immigration officers handling the visa forms from two to one so that the queue snakes retroactively to the apron and right back into the plane. This would give tourists the positive impression that Nepal is a popular, much-sought after destination and they should be honoured to be allowed to visit.

2 Now that we are at the top of the Transparency International Corruption Index, it behooves the authorities to ensure that we maintain that coveted position and start fleecing visitors the moment they step out of the airport. Tourists must be able to experience first-hand all the tricks we have up our sleeves to shake them down, so that they will be encouraged to write home about it and spread the word.

3 Nepal is the only country in the world that charges tourists to enter a city. After Bhaktapur started this in the 1980s, the rival kingdoms of Kathmandu and Patan followed suit. But the fees are still too low since tourists now get to also take pictures of enormous piles of garbage on street corners, be attacked by wild urban dogs hunting in packs in dark alleys, and have neardeath experience of multiple collisions with speeding motorcycles. Every effort has been made to make the Nepal experience as authentic and stimulating as possible, which means we can now charge premium rates.

4 Since Nepal has earned well-earned publicity as the world’s top exporter of the cholera baccilus, there is huge potential for ‘gastronomical tourism’. Our promotional brochures currently warn visitors not to drink water from the tap, whereas in actual fact we should be encouraging them to do so since that way Nepal’s Gastro-enteritis Weight Loss Program (registered trade mark, patent pending) could be promoted as a tourist attraction. Slogan: ‘Visit Nepal and Lose 10 kilos in 10 Days, Or Your Money Back’. 5Nepalis love to whine and we are always complaining that it is the political instability that is keeping tourists away. What nonsense. We should instead be cashing in on the circus that is our politics and designate mid-November as the peak for an exciting season of jatras.

6 Political parties must immediately revoke their pledge not to declare bunds and reinstate frequent total lockdowns of the country as a great tourism product. We can design attractive new brochures, posters, and DVDs depicting violent street protests so that we can compete with demos and vandalism in rival destinations like Istanbul and Athens. We should aim for repeat customers so tourists keep coming back for more. In fact, the Dash Baddies have set a good example by declaring a bonanza 10-day shutdown smack in the middle of the tourist season next month. Nepal’s unique selling point is its political turmoil and bunds, let’s not spoil the fun by actually holding peaceful elections and passing a new constitution.

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