15, Apr 2021 | nepaltraveller.com

“Covid has given a great opportunity to put our tourism on a good track. Now is the time to transform to sustainability.”



One of the biggest hits by the COVID-19 pandemic is the tourism and hospitality industry of Nepal. Hundreds of businesses, small and large, have been bankrupt while thousands of personnel from the industry are either jobless or diverting to other sectors of work. 
In 2019, 7.5% of the country's GDP was contributed by tourism while providing jobs to more than a million, according to WTTC reports. Due to the pandemic, much of 2020 went on lockdown and the well awaited campaign of Visit Nepal 2020 had to be called off. Even 2021 doesn't seem to have brought enough on the plate. So, we sat down with Bijaya Amatya, a  renown figure in Nepal's tourism industry to talk about the current situations and the hurdles on the way ahead for the tourism sector. The Chief Executive Officer of Kora Tours has been in the business for 45 years and is a big advocate of Sustainable and regenerated tourism. 

There is not much business activity going on in recent months, so we began our conversation with how busy he is these days. Amatya summed up the situation in a sentence. “We are not busy. Trekking, expeditions and some travel agencies with Indian clients are only busy. The business is almost none and the expectation to host clients is only after October.”  He also added “2021 will just be the teaser, the real film will begin after 2023/24.” There is an expectation of slow growth in 2022 while the pre covid era will be achieved only after 2024. 

During these difficult situations, Amatya and his agency has been utilizing the time by educating the staff, training, designing new itineraries and keeping in touch with the partners everywhere. Much effort is put on to keep staff motivated and help them to be innovative.
“We are designing new products. And other agencies are also doing so. It's a loss for them if they aren't.” He said.


The government is slowly opening the industry with certain conditions, beginning with expeditions and now trekkings. Many of the tourism stakeholders had to persuade the government for the step. Now, anyone vaccinated with a negative PCR can travel. But there must be a guide or an association with a travel and trekking agency to keep track of the traveller. 
While commenting on the new regulations Amatya spoke of reality. “The government is too cautious. They want to open the country for everyone like Maldives and UAE. Though the current regulations are relaxed. Only genuine and high-end ones are travelling. It's still tough for the small and medium business owners. We should not forget that our informal sector is much larger than the formal one.”
The people and business are suffering but the government is not willing to risk public health. Many tourism professionals argue that asking for a lot now and getting into another lockdown later is not an option. It's bad for business and too risky for tourists as well. 
He suggested that an immediate action to take is to categorize the tourist generating region in Red, Yellow and Green and add flights accordingly. This will control the risk and also helps the business survive.

Amatya believes that the tourism is not going to be the same after COVID-19, perhaps for better. He has been very vocal on persuading regenerated tourism. In recent decades, several development projects have destroyed the trekking routes and other tourism potentials. 
“Covid has given a great opportunity to put our tourism on a good track. Now is the time to transform to sustainability.”

As we went ahead with the future of Nepali tourism industry, Amatyas voice got louder. Anyone would notice the passion in his face, the passion to make Nepal a better, sustainable destination with quality tourism. 

“Whatever we got from our ancestors, when we hand down to younger ones it must be in a better position.”
He was also concerned about the carrying capacity of our destinations. Along with regulating and scattering the tourists flow, he also suggested the government to study existing sources and their carrying capacity.
In the meantime, he clarified that the process is not to create controlled tourism but for the planned tourism. 
“Focus on culture based tourism, soft adventure and man made tourism.” He did not leave a chance to suggest the government and pointed to the need  to attract tourists who have time, money and are willing to spend so that we can sustain and regenerate.

Nepali market needs to create jobs for a lot of manpower every year. Tourism has been an important sector to try and meet the need but that has made our industry quantitative. Amatya suggested an idea to solve the problem. “We need to make a balance between revenue and number without neglecting anyone from the industry. All the money the government gets from quality and high-end. tourism should be transferred to boost and create jobs in another sector.” He said.
This would help to promote other industries like farming, trade, business etc. This is sure to maintain quality tourism and also create and provide jobs as necessary.
He also proposed studying our available resources and distributing them as per requirement and pointed in the development of the finest infrastructure and easing taxation. 
Lastly, he stressed on sustainable development and said “while doing all of this, we should keep in mind the very thing that is giving us employment should not be overused and killed. We must create a cycle in a scientific manner.”


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