Meanwhile the global pandemic COVID 19 is hitting about 187 countries, the world’s economy is suffering a ‘severe recession’. Tourism has been the worst impacted of all other economic sectors. The pandemic presents the tourism industry of Nepal with a crucial and evolving challenge.
The outbreak of the disease forced the country to suspense all the international flights, seal the borders with India and China. After the declaration of nationwide lockdown, all internal flights, land ports, travel agencies, hospitality services have been closed to fight Corona.
Of course, the lockdown strategy was important for the safety of our guests across the world and our people around them. It was important to stop the virus to travel through our rugged mountains, woods, water bodies, magnificent heritage sites, crowded cities, and fascinating villages. With this, the tourism sector is committed to putting people and their wellbeing first.
As per the lockdown orders of the Nepal Government, all residents and visitors throughout Nepal are requested to remain in their place of residents. In order to facilitate the foreigners, the Immigration Department of Nepal has asked all the visa holders to remain patient, regardless of their visa status. Different online platforms have been created by Nepali travel entrepreneurs to connect foreigners at different places of Nepal and related authorities.
It has been reported that a number of trekkers have been stranded across mountain regions. Some are left behind at guest houses, some on homestays, and some of the base camps. Those foreign tourists have been residing like a family safely. Thanks to our guest's welcoming culture. Many of them consider Nepal safer than their homeland. They are waiting to start their journey soon after the lockdown ends.
So far the number of infected persons in Nepal has jumped to 109 with no single report of death and progressive recoveries. Most recent, situation reports by WHO confirmed over 41 lakh positive cases and the death toll is over 2,80,000 globally. This persistent drumbeat of positive cases have created fear of economic crisis with long -term shut down of tourism in effect.
The impact has already started. The campaign ‘Visit Nepal 2020” has been already cancelled. Tourist arrival rate has declined to below 10% from 70% before the Covid-19 outbreak. The once-bustling streets of major tourist hubs have been evacuated. Suspension of TIMS cards, cancellation of all spring mountaineering expeditions, closure of eateries, and hospitality services have created threats in the tourism sustainability of Nepal.
We believe, with every six tourist arrivals, one new job is created. But now, the situation has brought the nation to a stand-still. Tourism has been worst affected by millions of jobs at risk. Considering the prolonged nature of the situation, it’s too early to estimate the number of youths, women along marginalized people working in this sector unsure about their earnings. Regarding this fact, The GDP contribution of this sector to the total economy won’t stay 8% afterward. It depends on how the nation will fight against the residual effect of this global crisis.
the threat of a pandemic is over and the vaccine is discovered, people will travel less often. Despite the devastating condition of several countries of Europe and America, some of the countries like ours still have a chance to get known as least suffered from zero deaths. Limiting the spread of disease, Nepal can be declared as a safe tourist destination.
The tourism sector of Nepal has to be given priority in future recovery efforts. It is an important aspect to erase the deep socio-economic and psychological footprints of a crisis. Recovery strategies of Government praising agro-tourism and other evolving concepts are necessary to bounce back ensuring both economic stability and food security.
The government should take the necessary steps to provide relief packages to vulnerable communities who rely on tourism. Once the pandemic is over, we expect the government to inaugurate measures to revive the miserable condition of tourism. Encouraging foreign returnees, creating more jobs, mobilizing funds effectively can be some of the post-pandemic activities.
For now, we can contribute by staying at home, promoting our uncovered natural, cultural beauties through social media platforms. Let the world make its mind to visit Nepal soon after the pandemic is over. Let’s make sure that tourism will return again more consciously and more sustainably.