Tourism is the leading industry in Nepal, which has been a source of foreign exchange and revenue. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, tourism is the prime industry that is profoundly affected in Nepal. The outbreak is a hard hit for the tourism industry, which was reviving after the 2015 earthquake in Nepal.
Nepal is popularly known as the renowned travel hub worldwide. It has been in the choice of every vacationer Nepal is naturally and culturally rich country, which makes it the favorite destination for holidaymakers. From the majestic mountains to the terrain fields of Terai, Nepal is a plentiful vacation hotspot. The capital city of the nation, Kathmandu, and the city of lakes, Pokhara, comes at the prior list in the urban areas drawing the most visitors. Lumbini is a UNESCO world heritage site, well-known to the world as the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. Trekking and mountaineering bring Nepal on the main limelight. The trekking trails, the popular Annapurna, Everest, and followed by others, brings overflowed by paramount outsiders consistently. The trekking plays the most significant role in uplifting the travel industry advertise. The tourism sector is one of the largest industry which has been contributing around 7.9 percent of GDP(Gross Domestic Product)of the economy. After the massive earthquake in 2015, tourism in Nepal has been trying to stand up. It was soaring high, and then pandemic 2020 broke out.
Coronavirus and its impacts on the tourism industry
Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has affected the global tourism sector. The Impact of Coronavirus on the Tourism industry in Nepal is undeniable. This sector of Nepal is almost stagnant. The tourism and hospitality industry is related to the traveling of people and voyages; it is very severely affected by the pandemic.
Every pandemic adversely affects the tourism industry like airlines, accommodation service providers, restaurants, and travel operators because it comprises international travel restrictions and government measures.
The travel industry is facing a crisis threat because of the novel Corona Virus as obscure, as there is no clearance of how long the virus would stay. The travel experts and concerns stated that the effect of the Covid-19 Corona Virus on the world, firstly on the travel industry, would be hazardous as the past encounters of the comparable pandemic such as SARS.
The Government of Nepal announced the lockdown in the entire nation until further notice. Undoubtedly, it was a proper move as "Precaution is better than the virus." Every public and private concern shutdown. With no movement of people and money, it resulted in a decline in the economy worldwide. In Nepal and worldwide, more than 500 million have already kicked the bucket. It is spreading like fire starting, one then onto the next and everywhere in Nepal. The country's Covid-19 tally of positive cases has reached 16,168, taking the lives of 35 with 8634 active cases.
The positive tests and reported deaths due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been public concerns in Nepal. With the outbreak of COVID-19, Nepal has suffered the most widespread harsh economic activity. The Gross Domestic Product has been down due to the closure and halt of various industries rendering people jobless.
Some highlights in the tourism sectors as the effect of the outbreak of COVID-19:
1. Suspension of on-arrival visa for tourists
WHO(World Health Organization) declared Nepal as the danger zone and to take the necessary precautionary measures. Henceforth, the Nepal government suspended the on-arrival visa for tourists entering the country from the immigration point of Tribhuwan International Airport(TIA) from five highly-affected countries;(China, Iran, Italy, Republic of Korea and Japan). Later on, it was extended to other countries considering COVID-19, an international hazard.
2. National Campaign "Visit Nepal 2020" got canceled
The high-priority; Visit Nepal 2020 campaign launched to bring 2 million worldwide guests was called-off by Government has wrecked the hospitality and tourism-related business sector. The Visit Nepal 2020 campaign had the vision to boost Nepal's tourism industry after the massive earthquakes of 2015. It is going to be an unbearable loss for the tourism sector.
3. The halt of all mountaineering expeditions
With eight of the world's highest mountains in the country, the world regards Nepal as a mountaineer's paradise. Being the central hub for mountaineering, Nepal attracts mountaineers worldwide and earns millions of dollars every year.
Due to the spread of coronavirus worldwide, Nepal canceled climbing permits for the spring climbing season, all mountaineering expeditions, including Mount Everest and other mountains. Due to this, more than 13000 people engaged as a tour, trekking, mountain guides, porters, etc., and many lost their jobs and created unemployment.
Later on. China also suspended foreign expeditions on the north side of Mount Everest in Tibet, stating the high risk of virus and its adverse consequences that may occur after the infection in the climber.
4. Suspension of all the domestic and international commercial flights
All the universal flights halted down, which brought hostile influence to the travel industry zone of Nepal. The Government suspended all the local and international commercial air flights and been extending further. The airlines stopped their operations. The suspension in the commercial flights blew the aviation industry.
5. Shut down of the travel and hospitality industry
Tourism is not only a single business. It is the amalgam industry that involves the various other elements such as accommodation, recreation centers, activities, accessibility, and many more. Since the lockdown throughout the country, most of the travel business houses shut down. The tourist arrival rate halted after the Covid-19 outbreak. It has already been about four months of lockdown, and the situation is going even worse. The closure in the travel industry had brought heartbreak travel to a hundred thousand of individuals with misfortunes and occupation cuts. The investment in the travel industry has gone all vain as there are no visitors/guests and sources of income. The mainly affected are the airlines, travel operators, and hotel industry. The occupancy rate is diminished or also even 0 in some. The worldwide coronavirus pandemic leads a large number of the travel industry occupations in threat. It has compelled most of the smaller companies to shut down. On the other hand, large companies are bearing the unbearable loss.
6. Sagarmatha Sambaad postponed(Sagarmatha dialogue)
The Government delayed the first promotion edition of Sagarmatha Sambaad, a global dialogue event, which is planning to host every two years, as a result of the novel virus. Sagarmatha is the Nepali name of "Mount Everest."Sagarmatha dialogue is a forum aimed at climate change issues and avoidance of the meltdown in the mountains.
7. Financial Crisis
The financial crisis is spreading more rapidly than the virus. The pandemic CORONAVIRUS is one of the worst recession ever stroked to the tourism industry, which has affected every geographical sector and market, i.e., inbound, outbound, and domestic. No tourism segments, leisure, adventure, heritage, MICE, corporate, and other niche segments have been left untouched. It has smashed down the whole tourism network, hotels, travel agents, destinations, tour operators, restaurants, entertainment venues, and air/land transportation. Banks are suffering in loss of their investments in hospitality and aviation due to the coronavirus tourist downturn.
The worldwide threat has already created economic uncertainty among all of us.No works and business. Still, the compulsion to pay the rent during the lockdown has been a heart-attack for the entrepreneurs. The prior comes to the rent in the Thamel area and other areas, the center hub for tourists; a small shutter costs more than 20000. As per the request of organizations related to the tourism business requested to halve the fare so that both the homeowners and people in the market do not suffer, the tourism associations held a joint meeting to urge the landlords to give 50 percent discount for the next one year. However, Landlords in the Thamel region did not make any decisions regarding rent adjustments.
8. Employment Crisis
Travel and hospitality contributing the most in Gross Domestic Product (GDP)of Nepal have been a source of employment for the people from every sector directly and indirectly. The shutdown of the business houses as the result of an outbreak with a hundred thousand people are suffering from unemployment, loss of jobs, and cut-off.
9. Post-effect of Coronavirus
The virus is going to have a harsh post effect even after it is gone. It is obvious to have no bookings but only cancellations and no appointments for the upcoming seasons.
Now, we can forecast. The epidemic situation would knock down our economy very hard.
Government Approaches and Tourism Sector
The situation of the tourism area and the concerns have gone worst. The government authorities have not been able to execute any proper policies for welfare in the tourism sector. The Government must work on the impact assessment of the coronavirus pandemic immediately. Furthermore, it must come up with relief programs and policies for the tourism and hospitality industry. Nepal needs to reinforce its revival and set up rehabilitation policies. Above all, the administration of Nepal must take crucial arrangements to bring back its economy.
It will take time to recommencement even with domestic travel after the situation improves. The everyday increment in the positive cases of COVID 19, has already crossed about 16000 to date and yet increasing on. There is a massive risk of traveling and the spread of coronavirus. The Government had laid down the new modality of lockdown, which has started the average life of people to some extent. However, the tourism area is a long way to come back as there is no flow of tourists (both national and international).
According to the urgent notice, for Rescue flights, freighter flights and flights related to medical and other essential supplies requires special permission from CAAN(Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal).
1. Flights were made available for the tourists in various places and willing to fly back to Kathmandu.
2. Nepal Airlines and Himalaya Airlines have been operating repatriation flights. As per the Government of Nepal's permission & the authorization, airlines operated rescue flights to bring back Nepalese who are stuck in different countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some private airlines are operating Chartered flight to various destinations.
3. Department of Tourism develops a system that tracks tourists visiting Nepal
4. Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has started providing online protocol training to tourism entrepreneurs. It has initiated the training to effectively implement the 'Operational Guidelines with Health Protocols for the Tourism Sector' issued by the Ministry of Tourism and the Board to open up the tourism sector after the risk of coronavirus infection.
Hope for the future
We hope the pandemic soon goes away, and the standard travel will start. Soon, the day won't get far when the valleys; Kathmandu, Thamel, Pokhara, The Himalayas: Annapurna Base Camp, the Everest Base Camp followed by others and Terai: Lumbini, Chitwan, etc. and every tourist areas will be crowded back with the visitors.
New ventures on the way
The attraction of new investments in the restaurant has not been hindered even in the lockdown. Foreign investors are willing to operate restaurants in Nepal. Fifteen industries have registered since the beginning of the lockdown till 5th July, including three restaurant industries. The restaurant will be in Kathmandu, Pokhara, and Sunsari, with foreign investment of Rs.50 million rupees.
To be honest, this is a universal alarm, not just about Nepal and its travel industry. Despite all the panic, the travel industry business people who are directly or indirectly engaged with must be persuaded that the travel industry won't be spared when the nation's or the world's economy is getting affected.
Coronavirus is the sudden outbreak that is unexpectedly catastrophic. More than 500 million have already lost lives, which is a panic worldwide. We have heartfelt condolence to their families and praying for safety health worldwide. Try not to lose your interest and stay connected and discover different nations and societies, no matter whether staying safe at home or somewhere else. So far, until the pandemic goes normal, it would be a great idea to experience the world through live streams, webcams, and virtual visits. Read blogs, magazines, and make a bucket list that you'd prefer to visit or do later on. We will revive soon.