Mr. Tek Bahadur Dangi, CEO of Nepal Tourism Board analyzes in TravelDailyNews the tourism potential of Nepal and the official efforts of his country to boost tourism in the region.
TravelDailyNews: What measures do you undertake to ensure the safety in your country?
Tek Bahadur Dangi: Honestly speaking, in real sense, Nepal`s major tourism sites have no safety and security problems for tourists. Nepal`s tourism history has always stood to support this notion of safety and security. Hence, there is no record of any tourist being hurt or harmed in Nepal. Tourists can freely move all around major tourism destinations within Nepal. As it is self-evident anywhere in the present day world that precaution should be taken to ensure own safety. However, to manage the crisis smoothly to ensure safety of tourists in case of need, we have high level Tourism Crisis Coordination Committee presided by Minister for Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation, which provides necessary guideline to Tourism Crisis Response Action Unit formed comprising all the government, security and private sectors for necessary action as and when required. There is good coordination among all state machineries and private sector to facilitate tourists during any type of crisis that is related with tourists directly or indirectly. We operate Media Center at Nepal Tourism Board 24/7 to keep vigil to the ongoing situation and inform the tourists about all the factual first hand information so that distortion in the news and views is wiped off.
TDN: Do you have a common strategic plan with your government in order to increase the tourist flow in your country and in what specific fields is it targeted?
T.B.D: NTB being a private public sector led partnership based national tourism organization; it has representation from the concerned government sectors as well as private sector. So, it follows the policy of the government and implements its activities in accordance to the strategies drawn with the help of private sector. So that means there is a perfect congruence in planning and execution part. Overall, NTB acts as a bridging force between the Government and the private sector in all realms of tourism development endeavor.
Apart from its contribution to economic growth and the balance of payments, the tourism sector has remained as an important instrument of poverty reduction by increasing employment opportunities, directly and indirectly. His majesty`s Government has attached high priority to the tourism sector for its integral role for economic development. A major objective of the Tenth Plan of the government is to increase the contribution of the tourism sector to the national economy through the expansion of tourism activities and generation of greater employment opportunities. Religious tourism, regional tourism and adventure tourism are few major areas that the government and Nepal Tourism Board are harping on in collaboration with private sector in order to increase the tourist flow in Nepal. Regional tourism is to attract tourists from South and South East Asian countries who have become upwardly mobile in the recent years. Adventure sports tourism is for European and American tourists whose passion is for extreme sports like climbing mountains, bungee jumping, biking, paragliding etc.
With the effective implementation of the policies and activities incorporating the contemporary branding means, it is expected that the total number of tourists coming into the country and the average length of stay will increase.
TDN: Could you describe the initiatives of Nepal Tourism Board for 2006?
T.B.D: The year 2006 is going to be different in view of our focus and approach. However, it entirely depends upon the internal and external situation. Tourism being a contingent trade, situational effects are tremendous. In order to project myriad images of Nepal in a distinctive way, Nepal Tourism Board has recently launched a New Tourism Brand with a theme Naturally Nepal-Once is not enough incorporating entire spectrum of tourism products/services. The New Tourism Brand has projected, packaged and positioned Nepal`s image with a new thrust as practiced by other competing destinations.
With the unleashing of this new brand, Nepal is ready to project its image in more professional and competitive ways. The productions of new publicity materials insisting on the core competent themes as unleashed by new branding concept will cover entire activities that Nepal has been offering to the world with a new dimension. The new zeal and zest manifested by the Nepalese travel trade to position the new image of Nepal through the branding exercise will also revamp Nepal`s destination image.
TDN: Which countries contribute more in a global basis to your inbound tourism so far and what are your expectations for 2006?
T.B.D: India is the single largest country that contributed 35% of tourist flow to Nepal in 2005. Similarly, in 2005, British tourists contributed 8% to our inbound tourism, followed by American (6%), Japan (5%), France (4%) and Germany (4%). We are very much hopeful that we will have more tourists from Europe in 2006 as we are now geared up to launch aggressive marketing and promotion campaign in Europe this year. We have recently completed Sales Mission in Czech Republic, Poland and Russia, which will definitely help bring some more tourists from these newly emerging tourist markets for Nepal.
TDN: What kind of actions does your organization take to inform the global village for Nepal’s tourism product?
T.B.D: We have been promoting and marketing Nepal abroad through travel fairs, sales missions and media highlights. But now, apart from using traditional means of promotional tools, we have shifted our focus to consumer focused satellite and e-marketing. We regularly send information to travel trade industry and media all over the world by the means of weekly- e-newsletter that goes out to more than ten thousands people every Friday. By using email and internet, we have got better access to the world outside more easily and cost-effectively. We also regularly update our website which is browsed by thousands of people all over the world. So, our double barrel cost effective strategy will surely position our stance to enhance the yield through branding and other aligned strategies. Similarly, we`ve invited more than 350 journalists and travel writers from round the globe, which have helped to increase the coverage about Nepal in international print and electronic media.
TDN: How do you comment your presence in the travel fairs? Can you tell us in which exhibitions are you going to take part in 2006?
T.B.D: We always try to make our presence known in the travel fairs in whatsoever way we can. But due to paucity of budget, we are forced to keep our presence in low profile. However, our presence has always remained satisfactory for us. Visitors have always felt the presence of Nepal in the travel fairs through our unique decoration and presentation. We have/are taking parts in the following travel marts and fairs in 2006:
The Daily Telegraph Adventure Travel and Sports Show – London, Vakantiebeurs – The Netherlands,
CMT- Stuttgart (Germany), World Travel Fair -Shanghai (China), MITM – Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia),
ITB – Berlin, TTF – India, SATTE – India, PATA Travel Mart, BIT-Italy, FITUR – Spain, WTM -London, JATA- Japan
We also do organize sales missions and road shows depending on the demand of private sector tourism industry and need of promotion in respective markets.
TDN: In what way do you cooperate with Royal Nepal Airlines to promote Nepal’s tourism product?
T.B.D: Since the inception of Nepal Tourism Board, Royal Nepal Airlines has always been cooperative with us in promoting Nepal. RNAC has supported us in travel fairs and marts becoming our official partner. Their generous cooperation and effort to bring eminent journalists on a Familiarization trip to Nepal has always been fruitful to portray Nepal`s image amidst the various allegation made or created by the media irrespective of the ground reality. Hence, without the logistic help from RNAC, it would be difficult for us in promoting Nepal in various places. The role played by RNAC in promoting Nepal is second to none and it always gives priority to Nepal Tourism Board in its endeavor to promote Nepal. The role of national carrier is of paramount importance in the sphere of promotion. Therefore, we all should endeavor to supplement their fleet for more effective promotion.
TDN: What are your plans regarding the infrastructure development in your country?
T.B.D: Nepal Tourism Board is a national tourism organization established in 1998 in the form of partnership between His Majesty`s Government, and private sector tourism industry of Nepal to develop and market Nepal as an attractive tourist destination. The Board provides platform for vision drawing to the private sectors and supplements for the government to envision the policies. His Majesty`s Government of Nepal has entrusted NTB for promoting Nepal to establish it as an ace destination with collaboration with private sector. The entire responsibility of infrastructure development lies in the hands of the government including District Development Committee and local bodies. So, as a national tourism organization, NTB has merely been helping hand in this process of development work by supporting in minor information work.
TDN: World Tourism Organization gives special attention to sustainable tourism and poverty alleviation. Can you describe the official efforts of your country regarding those issues?
T.B.D: His Majesty`s Government of Nepal is committed to sustainable tourism and poverty alleviation. To address this issue, the government has introduced a special project called Tourism for Rural Poverty Alleviation Programme (TRPAP) aiming at achieving single key strategic aim of the 10th Plan of His Majesty`s Government of Nepal of poverty reduction. TRPAP is implemented by Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation and financed by UNDP, DFID and SNV/Nepal. The Programme has been designed to contribute to the poverty alleviation objective of the government through review and formulation of policy and strategic planning for sustainable tourism development that is pro-poor, pro-environment, pro-rural communities and pro-women. This programme has chosen six remote districts to reach out to some of Nepal`s poorest rural areas by developing, promoting and marketing rural tourism. Emphasis has been given for capacity building, infrastructure developing with forward and backward linkage. Nepal Tourism Board has chosen five major areas for sustainable tourism development: Antu Danda, Basanta Pur, Dhanusha Dham, Khaptad and Tansen with own effort which can develop in future as the major tourism product from the effort of local people and other stakeholders.
TDN: How do the market shares form in your country regarding the field of mice industry and how do you see those shares to shape in the following years?
T.B.D: The volume of tourists coming to Nepal under the category-MICE is gradually growing. The segment has good prospect to fill the vacuum in the times of lull in Nepal`s tourism. With the burgeoning infrastructure for MICE, if the prospect can be tapped from nearby destinations like India, Bangaldesh, Pakistan and other such potential countries, the share of the MICE would catapult to unprecedented scale. The year 2004 statistics shows around 8% of total arrivals under this category. This clarifies the importance of this sector in the days to come. Apart from world-class convention and meeting facilities, we have excellent infrastructure for pre and post event tour facilities.
TDN: What are the major problems that Nepal’s tourism faces today?
T.B.D: NTB has been reeling with one or the other problems from its establishment. Therefore, we are habituated to see problems as challenges. None of the countries of the world are scot free from problems. In this context, Nepal has been undergoing with series of problems of national and international stature. Stringent travel advisories issued by major tourists generating countries, negative media report and present prevailing problems are the major problems faced by the country. Resources crunch fuelled by sequences of events developed in tourism scenario also stand tall when we consider problem affecting Nepali tourism industry. Negative portrayal of Nepal`s image due to conflict though it is safe is a biggest problem that we are facing right now. We need the support of media to overcome the ghost shadow of negative image.