Integrated Tourist Service Centre on the offing
Nine months have elapsed since the start of Nepal Tourism Year-2011. The year is marked to increase the number of tourists, develop and upgrade related infrastructures and thereby make tourism sector a stronger contributor to national economy. Although some success has been made with regard to number of tourists, many other goals are yet to be met. In this context, Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation Khadga Bahadur Bishwokarma spoke with Nandalal Tiwari of The Rising Nepal on issues ranging from current policies and programmes for making the Tourism Year a great success to overall development of tourism sector in the country.
How have you taken the achievements of Nepal Tourism Year 2011 (NTY 2011) given some analysis that expected success is far away?
First of all, marking of NTY 2011 is a step toward the overall development of tourism sector in the country. The complete or partial success of the Year is interconnected with the government’s vision, national plan and programmes and mass mobilization method. There is nothing to worry much about the success of the Year given the achievement made so far.
However, from the standpoint of overall goal, we have had to do greater hard-work. Now, while talking about the overall goal, we have to see it from the angle whether it is fixed by the state’s vision and national planning for development of tourism sector. In this respect, I have found out that our country lacked such a vision and planning in the past. And you can calculate the extent of success of any goal made without the base, that is, vision and planning, and the challenges to meet the target. Despite this, we have already initiated the process at war-footing level to meet the goal of this national tourism campaign. Hence, I am hopeful that we will meet the goal or reach close to it.
You raised the issue of national vision and planning for the development of tourism sector and its lacking in the country. Have taken any steps to fill the void?
Of course, if there is anything I have tried hard and employed most of my time since I assumed the responsibility, it is for the vision and the plan. Now, we have concluded that there is no country in the world which has as abundant potentials for tourism as ours does. We have also identified the characters of Nepal’s tourism sector, which was lacking in the past, and concluded them as natural, religious and cultural and historical (or war) characters. Focusing on this specialty, which is incomparable and unprecedented, we have made a vision to make Nepal a model tourism destination in 15 years. This is the first thing.
Secondly, we thought about the planning to materialize the vision or meet the goal. We reviewed the past and found out that tourism sector had been developed in a spontaneous manner and only the capital city Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan were focused. But if you see our country, it has many places from east to west with profuse tourism potentials, for example, the Arun Valley in the east, Rara Lake and Khaptad area in the west. However, these places have not been developed for tourism as such due to lack of national plan. Keeping all this in view, we have prepared a national plan and included it in the government’s policies and programmes as well as the annual budget. Depending on these possibilities and basing on the aforementioned characters, we have forwarded a concept of 17 tourism zones (TZs) in the country.
Thirdly, we have made plans to set up an integrated tourist service centre (ITSC) in all these TZs. Sanitary of the tourist point, service, security and healthcare of the tourists are the focal points of such ITSCs. We are about to operate six of such ITCs in TZs like Khapdat-Dhamerasung, Rara, Rolpa-Jaljala-Dhorpatan, Ruru Resunga, Arun Valley and Mithila. The healthcare facilities in the ITSCs will also serve the common people.
Air connectivity and services are no less important for the development of tourism sector. However, our national flag carrier, Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC), has very few planes to bring in the tourists from abroad. Have you any plans to help NAC buy new planes?
Yes, a concrete process has already been started to this end. We understand that tourism sector could have been more developed if we had better and expanded international air services of our own. Although there are other airlines services, our national flag carrier, NAC, is in a pitiful condition. Concerned with this fact, I devoted a large chunk of my time and found out that the NAC was neck dip in corruption and commission and then I concluded that it was my duty to save it by pulling it up catching its hair-tip.
As my first and bold step, I dissolved the NAC board, in which there was much tussle, and set up a new one. Now, I suppose the step has circulated a new life in the NAC, a new hope has been infused in the staff there. Keeping aside for the time being the development of policy, structures, manpower and planning of the NAC, we are focused on purchasing new planes for it so that we can expand and advance the air services. I hope a concrete decision of the process initiated will come out within a few days. I have made a study of the barriers in the plane-purchasing process of the past and the related problems. I hope NAC will have new planes before very soon, the end of NTY-2011.
Seen from the point of economic and infrastructure development, Karnali region is backward. As you also represent this region in the government, have you initiated any plans for developing tourism sector there?