Tourism Recovery to Nepal one year on
When the Pacific Asia Travel Association presented its Nepal Tourism Rapid Recovery Task Force report in June 2015 it came with the slogan, Nepal, Back on Top of the World.
As you read this article, it will be exactly a year to the day of the Nepal earthquake of April 25th, 2015. The quake, and its aftershocks caused extensive destruction to Kathmandu and many localities between Kathmandu and the Everest base camp. The cost to Nepal in lives and money has been immense and in that year, Nepal’s tourism industry took a major hit. However, the Nepalese tourism industry, with a great deal of support from the global tourism industry has proven to be remarkably resilient. According to Dr Pranil Upadhayaya, a respected tourism academic from Kathmandu University and Tourism Management Advisor in Samarth-NMDP, international tourism to Nepal is rapidly approaching pre- earthquake numbers.
Dr Upadhayaya was recently speaking in Las Vegas for the Global Tourism Security Conference and presented an upbeat assessment of Nepal’s tourism recovery. The recovery struggle was difficult and involved overcoming inaccurate perceptions that Nepal had been totally devastated when in fact earthquake damage affected 15% of the country. Nepal’s tourism recovery program was largely driven by the private sector of Nepal’s tourism industry with strong support from some key transnational tourism associations led by the Adventure Travel Association and the Pacific Asia Travel Association.
Within Nepal itself, tour operators, travel agents, trekking companies, volunteer tour operators and niche travel operators actively promoted their services to the global travel industry and consumers. Effective use of social media communicated messages from tourists in country and in real time that Nepal was open for business. Many Nepalese tourism companies sponsored familiarisation tours for travel writers and journalists, international tour operators and travel agents from key source markets. Everest Base Camp which sustained heavy damage during the quake was restored to operation. Many damaged treks were repaired and restored. In Kathmandu, restoration of damaged heritage sites continues at a slow and deliberate pace.
Even when I was in Nepal in late 2015 it was clear that Nepal was ready, willing and able to host tourists. The message that the Nepalese tourism industry has actively and effectively communicated is that the most meaningful way to support Nepal is to visit the country and ensure that the half million Nepalese who work in the tourism and hospitality industry can continue working and support their families. Nepal’s tourism recovery was hampered between September 2015 – January 2016 by an unofficial fuel boycott imposed by India. Fortunately, the boycott is now over and all fuel supplies for heating, cooking and transport have been restored.
Natural disasters and especially earthquakes can cause havoc to tourism. While its important to reflect on Nepal’s one year struggle to recover from the devastating earthquake of April 2015 the global tourism industry should be ready to support Ecuador and Japan which have both experienced severe earthquakes and Texas, has experienced major flooding within the past few days.
No part of the world is immune from natural disasters. They always impact on tourism and our colleagues in the global tourism industry.