Kathmandu: Nepal Government has deferred the international tourism promotional activities planned as a part of Visit Nepal Year-2020 due to the coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 3000 people worldwide.
“The cabinet meeting decided on to postpone the Visit Nepal Year 2020 campaign for the time being. Prime Minister Oli has proposed 2022 to be celebrated as Visit Nepal Year but remained undecided. But with effect from March 7, Nepal will be suspending visa-on-arrival for all the tourists along with the Sagarmatha Sambad (global dialogue forum) planned on for the first week of April also has been suspended,” a Nepali Cabinet Minister told ANI on Sunday.
It is a major setback for the Visit Nepal Year campaign under which the Himalayan country targeted to attract 2 million foreign tourists, almost double from foreign tourists arrivals in 2019. Nepal had received 1.19 million foreign tourists last year, Xinhua news agency reported after citing the Department of Immigration.
“We are postponing the international tourism promotion for the time being,” Yogesh Bhattarai, minister for culture, tourism and civil aviation, said here on Saturday.
“During this crisis period, we will introduce measures to promote domestic tourism,” he added.
Bishwambher Ghimire, the program coordinator at the Visit Nepal Year Secretariat, told Xinhua on Saturday that the planned promotional campaign at Berlin Tourism Fair in Germany was cancelled after the fair itself was called off by the organiser.
“The planned promotional events in China have also been cancelled,” he said.
According to Ghimire, the Nepali Government’s priority has now shifted to building the necessary infrastructure to handle the possible influx of foreign tourists when the situation gets better.
During the Visit Nepal Year, Nepal’s biggest hope for meeting the target of foreign tourists’ inflow was on arrivals from India and China, the two largest source markets for Nepal’s tourism.
In 2019, Nepal had attracted 254,150 Indian tourists and 169,543 Chinese tourists, according to the immigration office. However, after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, most of the flights between China and Nepal have been suspended which will affect the inflow of Chinese tourists this year.
However, Nepali tourism experts say it is not time to lament about the number of tourists but to express solidarity with people affected by the epidemic. “We should use this crisis period to extend support or sympathy to the Chinese partners and we can also come up with creative ideas to focus on post crisis marketing strategies,” said Deepak Raj Joshi, former Chief Executive Officer at the Nepal Tourism Board, the tourism promotion body of Nepal.
“At this time, we can focus on the promotion of domestic tourism as we did in the past after the earthquake in 2015,” he said.
Joshi also suggested that the Nepal Government should provide some incentives to the tourism entrepreneurs to help cope with the losses.
Nepal has so far quarantined four people. One of them showed symptoms of Covid-19, while the other three had returned from South Korea and China.
Nepal was the first South Asian nation to confirm the viral infection in January. On February 16, the Himalayan nation airlifted its 175 citizens from Wuhan– epicentre from where the virus originated– including 134 males and 41 females.