Visit Nepal 2020
Suraj Vaidya, a veteran personality in the business spectrum, is the coordinator of the ‘Visit Nepal 2020’ for tourism promotional campaign. He is the chairman of Vaidya’s Organization of Industries and Trading Houses (VOITH) and former president of the Federation of Nepalese Chambers of Commerce and Industry. He is also the former president of SAARC Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SAARC CCI).
He believes Nepal is culturally, naturally and spiritually rich, but due to lack of advertisement, expertise and ignorance of people, all these treasures are in limbo. As a result, Nepal’s tourism industry is still in the nascent stage. He says when he travels abroad he sets priorities to bring more tourists to Nepal, search more investment and pursue various ways of creating more jobs in Nepal. And from every part of the world, he has received optimistic and exciting feedback. Moreover, he insists on making Nepalese youths responsible for their roles and responsibilities. However, he is worried that the Nepalese have become glamorous and fashionable due to the influence of the Western culture, and most youths are fascinated by the skyscrapers of foreign countries and want to settle down there permanently.
Moreover, a positive feeling about the country should be instilled in every Nepali, and they should start appreciating and promoting their nation and its invaluable assets. If we evaluate our infrastructures, Tribhuvan International airport has undergone tremendous transformation; we are autonomously generating sufficient electricity for illuminating our rural and urban swathes. According to him, Nepal’s highways and roads have tremendously improved.
In the words of Mr. Vaidya, tourism industry is the biggest job creating sector in any country. And right now Nepal needs more jobs and smart entrepreneurs to sell our unique and invaluable products to tourists in the country and beyond. College Readers caught up with such a renowned figure and discussed the obstacles, potentialities and gateways to successful implementation of the Visit Nepal-2020 campaign. Excerpts>>
How is the preparation of Visit Nepal-2020 Campaign?
As far as preparation is concerned, the main objective and goal of the Visit Nepal 2020, besides bringing two million tourists and increasing spending capacity of tourists, the most important part is creating jobs to Nepalese youths in Nepal. Probably 14 thousand people leave Nepal every year looking for jobs abroad. We have seen most of the beautiful cities in the world, such as Dubai, Qatar, Hong Kong, Malaysia etc. which have attracted most youths from around the world. We, here in Nepal, have to create jobs for Nepalese youths who are happy to leave their native land in pursuit of jobs in foreign lands. If we convince those youths to stay in Nepal to utilize their physical and mental toil in various sectors, we are bound to bring jaw-dropping reforms in various sectors. Therefore, the Visit Nepal-2020 campaign is not just about brining two million tourists to Nepal it’s about exploring new destinations of tourists, ensuring new investment and creating new jobs so that Nepalese people do not have to dilly-dally in search of jobs. It’s also important to heed the existing predicament that everyday one or two dead bodies are brought to the country in coffins. We can’t ignore this incongruity. Our strength is our youths; if you don’t get the youths to believe in their own country, it’s futile to bring two million tourists just for the sake of celebrating Visit Nepal-2020.
As far as the preparation is concerned, the government has already celebrated Visit Nepal campaigns twice in the past. There’s a slight difference from the previous ones as we are more focused on what tourists expect when they visit Nepal. If you visit the international airport, there’s been tremendous improvement there, which is the gateway to Nepal. In addition, the government is soon going to operate the Gautam Buddha International Airport April/May 2020. If it happens, it helps us fulfill the Visit Nepal 2020 target easily.
New programs and destinations are being launched by each province of Nepal. Mostly touristic activities have been centralized in some of the famous cities of Nepal, i.e. Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan and Mt. Everest. Less than 1% tourists go to visit Far Western Province, less than 2% go to Province 2. In such a scenario, if tourism is the backbone of the country for its economic growth, it has to be owned by the people of all parts of Nepal. Therefore, we are working closely with all seven provinces of Nepal for exploring new areas for touristic activities. Moreover, the federal government is working hand in hand with each local government for more investments in infrastructural development. Most of our projects are complete, so we are going to launch them on January 1st from the Dashrath Stadium. The Opening Ceremony will be stern, but it’s going to be exquisitely eye-catching and jaw-dropping for the world. The Opening Ceremony will incorporate Nepalese culture, Nepalese heritages and Nepalese spirituality which are the invaluable treasures of Nepal. After the inauguration, we will launch many tourism packages, such as 7 days in Rara, 7 days in Khaptad, 7 days in Karnali, 7 days in Pokhara, 7 days in Lumbini and so on.
We are working scrupulously with many international media houses and social blogs. Besides, we have been coordinating with various travel agencies of the world. For the first time, we have suggested that all Nepalese Embassy Offices in different countries promote Nepal and its heritages. Moreover, we held a meeting with all the European Ambassadors to discuss all possible obstacles, their gateways and potentiality in order to succeed in our campaign, which never happened before. Not only this, we met up with the ambassadors in Bangkok and Middle East and gave them a brief introduction to Visit Nepal-2020 campaign.
What are the major challenges for ‘The Visit Nepal-2020’ campaign?
When I travel abroad, I set priorities to bring more tourists to Nepal, to search more investment and to create more jobs in Nepal. And from every part of the world, I’ve received optimistic and exciting feedback. They appreciate our cultural heritages, mountainous landscapes and demeanor of Nepalese people. In this regard, bringing tourists to Nepal is not a herculean task rather our biggest challenge is to make Nepalese people love their motherland more and feel proud of themselves. However, the Nepalese have become glamorous and fashionable due to the influence of the Western culture. So, unless Nepalese people feel good about themselves, it is very difficult to make others feel good about Nepal. Therefore, a positive image of the country should be instilled in every Nepali that they should start appreciating their nation. If you look at the international airport there’s been a tremendous change, and if you gauge available energy and electricity in comparison with that of the last five years, there’s no problem. In the same token, if you look at the highways, there are lots of improvements.
Many stakeholders allege that the preparation for the campaign is not sufficient. Is it possible to bring two million tourists to the country amid such backlash?
My question would be why isn’t it possible? And what is the state of your mind? If you look at Nepal’s tourism history, it is growing at the rate of 20 percent per year. And if you search Nepal’s status in Trip Advisor and Lonely Planet, which are the digital platforms that track the records of tourists visiting different countries, you will see an increasing number of tourists visit Nepal every year. The world’s growth in tourism is 6 percent and Nepal is heading with 20 percent. And we still complain. We have seen the past data of tourists visiting Nepal which is promising, convincing and exciting. Then why are we bragging with allegation of undergrowth? Besides, two million is mere a number, but if everybody works together we are sure to exceed the number. So, my focal point is that everybody should say, ‘it’s going to happen’ against the proportion, ‘it’s impossible to happen’. Every individual should feel responsible from his/her place in order to make our campaign a grand success.
‘The Visit Nepal’ campaign started in 1998, followed by the ‘Tourism Year-2011’, and we are observing ‘The Visit Nepal’ campaign in 2020 too. Could you tell us about any differences that exist between the present and past campaigns?
I think the main foundational corner stone was laid in 1998. That was the first that we launched ‘Visit Nepal Year’ and that opened the gateway to Nepal for the world. It raised awareness among people that tourism is a very important aspect of our economy. When Yogendra Shakya became the national campaigner, his slogan was, “Together for Tourism”, and it was important at that time because the country had been undergoing political upheavals and maelstrom. He got a political commitment from all, and he was successful in sustaining our legacy. In the year 2020, we have profuse opportunities as we have the government that has two-third majority of political parties. We successfully held the local elections after 20 years from the establishment of democracy in Nepal. We have the most promising and progressive Constitution of the world. Our natural habitats have improved tremendously. Therefore, my job is to ensure Nepal escalates the tourism prospects and the people of each province get benefits from this national campaign. However, we need to construct airports in Far Western Province, regional international airports, and airports in other provinces too. Not only this, we ought to bring new investment to major touristic destinations, such as Rara, Mustang, Khaptad, Lumbini, Janakpur etc. Our job in 2020 is, of course, to bring two million tourists, but it is also necessary to convince more investors to invest their wealth in job creating sectors so that we can create myriads of new jobs. In this regard, the differences are quite anomalous between the Visit Nepal Campaigns of the past and the present.
Could you please share your plans with us about the government’s strategy of prolonging the stay of tourists in Nepal?
Yes, indeed. We have already prepared our plan as tourists are going stay at least for seven days in one particular area. In Karnali, we are having Karnali Quest, which is the world’s biggest rafting competition. We will have Buddha Jayanti celebration in such a way which you haven’t seen before in Lumbini. In addition, we are promoting spiritual heritage and religion sites too. You must have heard about the Ramayan Circuit, Buddha Circuit etc. Shivaji lives in the Himalaya and we have 60% of such Himalayas, so we are promoting ‘Shiva-Shakti Parikarma’, which is a new version of this tourism campaign. Not only this, we are intending to showcase an amazing ‘Bibaha Panchami’ celebration. So, there are many things that we are intending to organize in order to convince our guests to stay longer in Nepal. All these activities will be carried out in coordination with respective provinces and local governments.
Although you are making utmost efforts for the successful upshots of the campaign, it’s alleged that all these activities are not linked with academic sector. Why is it so?
Education is an extremely important aspect, but we must invest in new areas so that it becomes sustainable and can automatically be linked to the academic sector in order to stop Nepalese youths from going abroad in pursuit of good careers and permanent settlement.
If this is your contention, what suggestions would you like to give to students, schools and colleges of Nepal?
In comparison to the scenarios of the past, now college students have the privilege to pursue creative and new ways for innovations and entrepreneurship. Do not wait for the government or your parents to show you your gateways to abundant opportunities; you are fortunate enough that you can utilize the social media and other advanced technologies. Be creative to find something invaluable in Nepal so that you can become a role model for the rest of the world. Why do you want to leave the country when you can explore many areas which have not been trodden yet? You can get the best climatic experience in the country. And you’ve got the best and nature-gifted landscapes. Why do you want to quit your citizenship when you have got jaw-dropping floras and faunas, rich cultural and linguistic heritages in your motherland?
Why have we been unable to promote these treasures amid Nepalese youths?
It is because our youngsters are always fascinated by skyscrapers of developed countries. It’s time for our youths to get lured by such fascination in their motherland and explore if they find something better and bigger here. You will never get another Rara Lake, Khaptad, Annapurna etc. in the world. But our children are interested in travelling to Dubai, Singapore, Hong Kong and New York only. Don’t blame the country; Nepal is one of the richest countries in the world. So, our people need to feel proud of their country. More importantly, we need to instill in our students the feeling of ‘I can do’, ‘I am the catalyst’, ‘Nepal is a fantastic country in the world’, from the basic level. These areas should be incorporated in our basic curriculum. We have to change the mindset and start loving the cultural contours and rich heritages of the country.
Is tourism the only way to develop our country?
I would say tourism industry is the biggest job creating sector in any country. And right now Nepal needs more jobs and smart entrepreneurs to sell our unique and invaluable products to tourists in the country and beyond.
What are the prospects of tourism sector you envision?
I have seen lots of prospects in tourism sector. We know there are problems in Nepal in many areas like transportation, logistics, and infrastructure, but every problem begets opportunities too. So, we need transform these problems into opportunity. Moreover, we need to come out of the box that contains superstitious beliefs and explore more areas which are immaculately untouched.
Which countries and people are you focusing on that are most likely to visit Nepal in 2020?
We ought to focus on the countries that have direct flight to Kathmandu, as one stop flight. So, probably more tourists are coming from China and India. Middle East can be a huge market for Nepal, but we haven’t got enough travelers from there. We have 30 flights from Middle East countries, so we need to change the perception of Middle East people about Nepal. Similarly, Malaysia can be another reliable source of tourists since 4 to 5 flights are exchanged between Kathmandu and Malaysia. The continents, such as America, Europe, and Australia are the fountains of tourists visiting Nepal.
Do we have any plans for the tourists concerning the subsidies and discount packages?
We have already received a written commitment from the private sectors. Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN) has already declared discount packages; travel agencies too have announced their package waives. From the government’s side, new mountains are opened for expedition. And there is reduction in fee for mountaineering.
Would you like to convey a message to the prospective tourists?
Nepal is one of the safest countries in the world, which can be corroborated with the fact that in a period of 15 years’ conflict and civil war in Nepal, not a single tourist got killed nor were they kidnapped. We respect our guests. Therefore, it is the safest country in the world. Probably, we are the most diverse naturally, culturally and geographically, yet most united in the world. Nepal is going to be the first country in the world to double the population of tigers. In addition, Nepal’s cultural heritages are so unique that we hold festival each day throughout the year. The strength of the people of Nepal is that they are uniquely united. So, Nepal is the greatest country where the tourists gain life-time experiences.
Could you deliver some concluding words?
The Visit Nepal 2020 campaign is already half full, and to fill it up completely, every Nepali should take ownership and feel proud of their motherland.