Nepali Times
Economic Sense
Enough is enough


The Beed is depressed. 1 June has not been a good day for the tourism industry. Last year's Narayanhiti incident led to the unfolding of a series of complicated events. The fallout has been widespread, and we'll see an instance of it a year to the day much of this began. Singapore Airlines is suspending flights as of 1 June. For an industry already reeling under local problems and the global aftermath 9/11, this could not have come at a worse time.

We have talked to the press enough, ensured that big names are quoted in the media sharing our woes and perhaps meeting concerned airline authorities. We still haven't heard from the government or the Nepal Tourism Board. For the chattering classes it's yet another chance to do what they do best-pontificate on it like doomsday prophets after the second drink.

We still have not gauged the impact of the suspension of SQ flights. What will happen to Nepal as a destination? Lufthansa is gone, even other European carriers are not flying regularly. When a potential tourist in North America keys in "Destination: Kathmandu" on a travel website, the only option that will show up is Thai. People are busy, their lives run to perfectly calibrated schedules. They need more options to seriously consider Nepal as holiday spot. Barring places such as Patagonia, the credibility of a destination depends on the credibility of the carriers that fly there. With Singapore Airlines flights gone indefinitely, Nepal is isolated on the tourist map. If we were doubted the gravity of the situation, it is time we woke up and smelt the rot.

It isn't simply the low loads or the technical problems of landing larger aircraft at Nepal's only international airport that have led to international carriers pulling out. Nepal has never been a very profitable destination for any airline, given the unpredictability of the weather and the seasonality of travellers. For large airlines Nepal operations have always been losers. As for technical issues, flights to popular destinations tolerate hurricanes and even dubious equipment. There's more to this than meets the eye.

Most carriers have been complaining for some time of the high price of landing and steep ground handling charges, coupled with inefficient management. The services provided at the airport are poor-carriers find it difficult deal with the staff stationed there for the express purpose of assisting them. Fuel prices are high and quality has been a problem. Many carriers have been raising these issues for a long time, but the lackadaisical attitude of our beloved government agencies and authorities has brought things to a point where carriers are seriously wondering whether there is any point at all flying their flag in Nepal.

The tourist industry-all of it, all its multifaceted multi-specialist associations-needs to stand up and show their solidarity and help get Singapore Airlines flying again soon. As we know, the government will wish to wait for a donor-funded consultant to tell them that this is a serious matter. This Beed overheard that there is a team being put together by the tourism industry to make a case and convince Singapore Airlines to reinstate flights. But for that to work, government needs to wake up.

We boast of 50,000 MW of potential power and have developed one percent of that. We have agreements for more than 60,000 aircraft seats per week, but end up utilising a minuscule portion of that. The Beed knows how frustrated this column sounds. But does the NTB ever consider what its role would be if there were no tourists? Would they be happy simply providing full-page ads to local dailies?

Readers can post their views at

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)