The Nepal Tourism Year 2011 which commenced on Jan. 1, 2011 has concluded along with the year.
With the conclusion of the Tourism Year, the Nepal is set to launch the Visit Lumbini Year 2012 on Jan. 14 in a bid to spread Gautam Buddha’s message of peace across the world and develop the Buddha’s birthplace as a peace city and a global Buddhist center, luring more tourists to visit the country and also develop internal tourism.
Lumbini is the birthplace of Gautam Buddha and is situated 300 km southwest of the Nepali capital Kathmandu. It is among the 7 sites listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2010.
In tourism year 2011, the government had targeted to welcome one million visitors to the country. However, as per the data, a little above 800,000 foreign visitors arrived in Nepal, which was 200,000 more compared to the arrival of tourists in 2010. The Lumbini Development Trust officials expressed hope to receive 140, 000 foreign visitors this year. We have great potential to increase Buddhist tourism in Nepal Lumbini.
While celebrating the tourism year 2011, although the targeted number of tourists arrival was not met, people in the business see it as a success story.
“The number of tourists reached a targeted high. Although we did not meet the target, we are encouraged to see the number was very high,” Nirakar Regmi, chairman of Holy Palace Nepal told.
“Sometimes when we aim at the highest point, we can at least reach high,” Regmi expressed with optimism.
As per the data made available by the Nepal Tourism Board, the total number of visitors who traveled to Nepal by air alone reached 544,985 in 2011 which is 21 percent higher than the arrival figures of 2010.
Likewise, according to the data provided by the Immigration Office at Tribhuvan International Airport, there was a significant number of visitors from India and China in 2011.
The increased air access to and from the immediate neighbors accounted to an increasing number of visitors from India and China.
“The increase in number of tourists from India and China shows that the Nepalese tourism industry has a lot of potential from these two countries. We must therefore make new programs for promotion of tourism in both the countries,” Regmi said.
The report also reveals arrivals from India reached 132,652, up 40.5 percent while Chinese tourists amounted to 40,244, up 74.4 percent.
There have also been growths in arrivals from Sri Lanka and Pakistan with a growth rate of 16.6 percent and 16.8 percent respectively. Similarly, other Asian countries — Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand — have also registered growths with growth average of nearly 15 percent in the first 11 months compared to last year. Likewise, European and American tourist arrivals are also on a rising trend. But, Bangladesh registered a negative growth of 8.6 percent in the first 11 months of 2011.
Likewise, the tourism year is believed to have sent a positive message around the world from a country that had been affected by civil war for a decade.
Tourism industry which is one of the largest industry in Nepal, and the largest source of foreign exchange and revenue was deeply affected due to the insurgency.
The tourism year 2011 came as an effort to send a message to the globe that the situation in the country has been tourist- friendly after the commencement of the peace process in 2006.
However, despite several efforts, there were still loopholes in the overall program.
The delayed release of the fiscal budget and controversies that encircled it created a dilemma for the entrepreneurs and the public regarding the commencement of the tourism year 2011 as they failed to estimate the promotional budget until it was released.
Likewise, the unstable government and delay in making plans and programs also affected the tourism year.
Similarly, the preparedness for the tourism year was also not achieved.
Lack of a national flag carrier, and lack of preparedness of facilities like road, electricity and fuel during the tourism year also created a setback for the tourism year.
The major setback for the tourism year was lack of enough and delayed promotional campaigning. For instance, the campaigning for the tourism year began in London only during the month of June 2011.
Promotion campaign through the international media in Europe, Asia Pacific and South Asia began only in November 2011.
Lack of internal homework and coordination between the tourism year 2011 Secretariat and the private sector also hindered the tourism year from meeting its target.
Likewise, although it was agreed beforehand that political parties or any outfits would refrain from strikes and other form of political disturbances, the promises was not kept and national strikes including strikes in tourism sectors such as major hotels affected the tourists and failed to make a mark.
Many tourists were forced to leave their accommodations in these hotels once the trade unions affiliated to different parties announced their strikes making their demands.
Likewise, the failure of preparation also got many tourists stranded in different regions during the peak season due to weather problems and lack of appropriate rescue backups.
Similarly, different successive incidents of aeroplane crashes which resulted in deaths of foreign visitors also send a negative message of the tourism year.
This was the second time such programs were made in order to promote tourism in a large scale. Visit Nepal Year 1998 had yielded good results that also followed until the next year in 1999.
However, introducing a new tradition and arousing hope among the people, two huge international concerts by international artists Bryan Adams and Michael Learns to Rock was performed in two different occasions. This was the first time such huge scale concert was held in Nepal.
Nevertheless, the tourism year has definitely aroused hope amongst the public and entrepreneurs for bringing back the tourism industry which had been following a downtrend in the past decade. It also served as an example to the entire nation who is set to invite more tourists in the future.
Minister for Tourism Lokendra Bista Magar has declared that such tourism oriented events will be organized every year until 2020.