Hon. Yogesh Bhattarai
Minister of Culture
Tourism and Civil Aviation
With the aim and commitment to establish tourism industry as harbinger of economic growth and prosperity, the Nepal Government is celebrating Visit Nepal-2020 with the slogan—‘Lifetime Experiences’. The campaign aims at welcoming more than two million tourists to Nepal in 2020 AD and making a major breakthrough in tourism sector.
The Visit Nepal 2020 is opening formally at Dashrath Stadium on 1st January in the presence of the Hon’ble President of Nepal, along with ministers, renowned personalities, tourism entrepreneurs and stakeholders.The inauguration program will be organized at all foreign Diplomatic Missions of Nepal within the first week of January.
Tourism ministers of 40 countries have been invited to participate in the inauguration ceremony of Visit Nepal-2020.
Nepal is celebrating the Visit Nepal-2020. Would you elucidate about the preparation?
We are inaugurating the Visit Nepal-2020 campaign on 1st January 2020 from Kathmandu and from the capital of each province simultaneously. The inauguration ceremony will be held at each diplomatic mission of Nepal in foreign lands on 7th January. Now, the Ministry, Secretariat of Visit Nepal-2020, Nepal Tourism Board and other concerned offices are working scrupulously in making the function a grand success.
Who are the national and international personalities observing the inauguration of Visit Nepal 2020?
The opening ceremony begins at 3 o’clock at the Dashrath Stadium, Kathmandu. The H’ble President, Bidhya Devi Bhandari is going to inaugurate the campaign. In addition, Prime Minister, K.P. Oli will address the symposium and some leaders of opposition parties and political parties in the government will be part of this auspicious ceremony. We have invited the ministers of tourism of neighboring countries, and dozens of foreign media persons have been invited. All interested commoners will also participate and observe the function. Various cultural shows that represent our diverse cultural values will also be showcased during the event.
The government is aiming at bringing two million tourists to Nepal, but the stakeholders are dubious about its successful upshots due to a lack of air and communication connection and poor infrastructures. How do you convince them?
Preparation never becomes perfect. The preparation of Visit Nepal-2020 has been done as it was expected, but the existing preparation has laid a strong foundation to welcome and accommodate two million tourists. In addition, entrepreneurs of all private sectors are actively working for making our surmise possible, which is a great help for the government. Those hoteliers and tourism entrepreneurs have already declared their services and facilities to tourists. In other words, hotels, travel agencies, facilitators of adventure tourism, home stay owners etc. have prepared special packages for the year, 2020. In this line, the Nepal Government is also announcing some special packages regarding mountaineering. We can do more exciting things, but the existing preparation cannot be under-estimated. We have one full year to work and serve the tourists after 1st January. Besides that, we are intending to launch the 2030 Plan for tourism development which will be a regular and continuous process.
How does the coordination among and between the federal government, province government and local government go on?
There is a central committee under the chairmanship of the federal minister in each province. Similarly, there are provincial working committees in ownership of province tourism ministers, and in districts, district coordination committee chairs lead these committees for its success. We have already circulated a message to the local level to formulate the local level working committee to observe the Nepal Visit Year-2020. So, all level governments have taken their responsibility seriously.
It is often heard that air connectivity and poor infrastructure are the barriers to successful upshots of Visit Nepal-2020. How is it possible to improve these areas?
Of course, there are some problems regarding connectivity, and we have not achieved as expected. We have 53 airports across Nepal, among them 35 are still in use. Some other airports will soon come in operation. But we have only one international airport. After some days, we will be able to use Gautam Buddha International Airport. Similarly, by the end of 2020, the work of Pokhara International Airport will be completed. The upgrading and expansion of Tribhuvan International Airport has already been completed, but TIA alone cannot be sufficient to hold the flow of tourists. The TIA capacity has reached its saturation. It is serving about seven million passengers throughout the year. If the flow remains as it is after 2 to 3 years, the maximum capacity of TIA will cross the alarming line. So, we need another highly facilitated modern international airport near Kathmandu valley. In this regard, we have set priorities to Nijgadh International Airport.
When will the work of Nijgadh Int’l Airport begin?
Some initial work has already started, such as documentation, inter-ministry coordination and investment management in PPP model.
When will the Gautam Buddha International Airport, Bhairahawa come into operation?
As per our preparation and completion work report, the airport will begin its flight service from Buddha Purnima of 2077 which falls in the month of Baishakh (April/May). Moreover, it is expected that Pokhara International Airport begins its services by the end of 2021.
We have announced and set plans for welcoming two million tourists to Nepal in the year 2020, but what about their stay duration and quality.
In order to extend the stay of tourists, we need to indentify and build additional tourist destination points. The government has already summoned the province and local governments to indentify new tourist destinations and prepare facilities and discount packages to attract them. In addition, for Visit Nepal-2020 program, as many as101 new destinations have been identified and concerned governments are making package and promotional activities.
Recently, the SAARC regional South Asian Games concluded. Did it support for the Visit Nepal-2020 campaign?
The recent SAG has played a significant role in promoting the Visit Nepal 2020 program. Thousands of foreign players stayed in Nepal for 10 days. We welcomed them with good hospitality. The opening and closing ceremonies were grand and jaw-dropping which has increased fame and prestige of Nepal in the international arena. Similar types of other regional and international programs have supported the promotional activities of Visit Nepal-2020.
The Visit Nepal-2020 campaign has left the academic sector stranded. PABSON, NPABSON, HISSAN along with other educational unions of schools and college owners have a complaint. What would you say about it?
We are still in a learning phase as far as tourism industry is concerned, which means we are in a nascent phase. We may have overlooked the tourism sector while preparing the curricula. However, not only tourism entrepreneurs but also other social sector associates have known their roles and responsibilities now. It will be a major breakthrough when we integrate tourism with our regular and formal curricula so that we can establish interrelationship with various education institutions across the country. Recently, the cabinet has passed an Act, ‘Tourism and Mountaineering Study Institute” to prepare quality human resources in tourism and hospitality service.
You have envisioned spearheading Visit Nepal Campaign for one decade till 2030 AD. What is the expected number of tourists that will visit Nepal by 2030?
The existing 14th Economic Planning has aimed at welcoming 3.5 million tourists annually. And their daily expense will reach 80 USD from 44 USD. Moreover, about 150000- 200000 new employment opportunities will be created per year. And this plan has also aimed at extending staying days of tourists. It has also targeted to increase the GDP contribution from 3% to 10% per year from tourism sector.
What do we have to sell and convince the tourists visiting Nepal?
In order to spread a message to the world, Nepal has got a good achievement in political stability. We have promulgated a democratic constitution and democratic practices are being exercised by all political parties. In addition, Nepal is safe for both tourism and investment. Moreover, world’s acclaimed touristic and leisurely activities, historical and holy pilgrimage and destinations, breath-taking adventures, scenic beauty etc. are found in Nepal.
What is your message to the stakeholders, i.e.HAN, TAN for successful completion of Visit Nepal-2020?
Private sector is working hand in hand with the government for its successful upshots. I would like to thank them for their initiative and expect more energized and active participation in coming days too. Such stakeholders should discern the fact that the government is the moderator of the Visit Nepal-2020 campaign and the private sectors are the achievers.
Could you please give a message to the tourists wishing to visit Nepal in the near future?
I would like to suggest them they visit Nepal in order for gaining lifetime experiences. Once and alone may not be enough and satisfactory; so, please bring your family along to decipher unexplored paradise and get the unfathomable bliss.