Three Major Parties Issue Concept Paper For Tourism

KATHMANDU, July 15: Three major political parties — Nepali Congress (NC), CPN-UML and UCPN (Maoist) — have jointly issued a concept paper for recovery of tourism industry after the devastating earthquake.

Kishore Singh Rathor, central member of NC and chief of the party’s tourism department, Surya Thapa, central member of CPN-UML and chief of the party’s tourism department, and Tek Bahadur Basnet, central member and representative of the party’s tourism department, signed the 26- point concept paper amid a program on Wednesday.

“The Post-disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) has estimated that the tourism business will go down by 40 percent in the next 12 months and 20 percent in next 24 months. Hence, we have pin-pointed the need for carrying out various activities for speedy revival of tourism industry after a month long discussion,” Thapa said, adding that that the concept paper was prepared after month-long brainstorming.

The concept paper has highlighted 7 major points — activities to be carried out immediately, telling the world that tourism destinations are safe and back in business, expansion and diversification of tourism products and services, repair, reconstruction and reopening of damaged tourism infrastructures, promotion of domestic tourism, support and facilities to tourism entrepreneurs, and the role of political parties in tourism recovery.

The three parties have jointly requested the government to remove the ‘crisis zone’ tag from tourist destinations, saying that it has sent negative message in the international markets. Stating that total budget allocation for tourism is only 0.6 percent of the total budget of Rs 819 billion, Rathor said that the government should allocate at least 10 percent of the total budget tourism development.

Among others, the parties have urged the government to organize International Tourism Conference and invite international tour operators, media representatives, members of diplomatic missions and tourism stakeholders to disseminate information that Nepal is still a safe destination. They have also asked the government to complete maintenance of partially damage trekking trails so that trekking in those areas can resume from September.

The parties have also asked the government to establish travel desk in Nepali embassies in different countries, to take initiative for softening travel advisories, and to organize familiarization trip for foreign tour operators, media and renowned writers.

Developing special tour packages to eastern, mid-western and far-western region, strengthening Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) to connect major Indian and Chinese cities, providing multiple entry visa for tourists, revising permit fee for Upper Mustang and Upper Dolpa, and opening Nechung- Korala route of Lo Manthang and Rasuwagadhi and developing them as alternatives to Tatopani trading point between Nepal and China are the other suggestions included in the concept paper.

Similarly, the three parties have demanded that the government change Dashain incentive being given to government employees into Tourism Promotion Incentive and introduce Leave Tourism Concession (LTC) for government officials, staff of banks and financial institutions and private firms. They have requested the government to declare 2015/16 fiscal year as Western Nepal Visit Year to promote tourist destinations of western Nepal.

They have also urged the government to waive off duty on import of trekking and mountaineering gears for a year.

“Political parties should to take initiation for tourism revival and development,” Basnet said, adding, “We are hopeful that this concept paper will help to introduce new programs in the tourism sector and bring additional budget.”