Tourism in Nepal is seeing better days than it has in the past few years. Devastated by a tragic earthquake in 2015, the Himalayan Nation had to surmount serious challenges in rehabilitation. Tourism naturally took a hit. Come 2018, the trend has flipped upside down. Nepal is registering a double-digit growth, month-on-month, in international tourist arrivals. In 2017, it hosted over a million international tourists. We spoke to Deepak Joshi, CEO, Nepal Tourism Board to understand what is making tourism work in the Indian neighbourhood. An interview on the sidelines of Cinemascapes 2018 in Mumbai:
Explaining the reason behind a consistent growth in tourism numbers, Deepak Joshi said that the Nepalese Tourism Board had been making conscious efforts in key source markets, “targeting different segments of travellers.” The country was visible on all important international platforms and promoting itself assiduously, he insisted. “Being visible at all important global platforms, such as this, has been helping us tremendously,” the CEO noted.
In the past two years, the country had been getting a “very positive response” from travellers, resulting in a 20 per cent growth in traffic each month, he shared. The month of September was no less stellar, as Nepal notched a 35 per cent month-on-month growth, we were told. “It is over 20 per cent even year-on-year, so we are satisfied with the results,” he said, exuberating confidence. He further shared that the overall international footfalls were in tune of over a million visitors. Interestingly though, these numbers did not include Indian visitors coming into the country via land borders, which are many and spread across four Indian states, namely Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Sikkim. “There are many open inter-points from where Indian visitors do enter into Nepal, so that number is huge in itself,” he detailed, noting that the number was north of a million tourists.
India aside, Europe had played a key role in increasing the tourist count. Deepak Joshi candidly admitted that the country had lost its hold on the region, but now had “successfully regained it.” “Another key market that has been growing rapidly for us is the USA which is now our third largest source market replacing Sri Lanka,” he explained. It had been an added advantage as it was a high-paying market besides being a long-haul destination, adding more room nights and per capita spent, he suggested.
While the adventure segment had continued to remain integral to a quintessential Nepal experience, travellers from Europe and the USA were increasingly taking to sampling the cultural aspect of the country, Deepak Joshi revealed. He called it “a widening of the tourism offering.” “We have so many heritage sites, experiences and festivals. That is a unique aspect which many visitors are looking for,” he reasoned.
Thoughts on the Indian market
Nepal’s foray into the Indian market is not new. For it has found many takers, including top movie makers, etching a permanent image of the country and its beautiful, ubiquitous mountainous backdrop in the minds of the Indian audience. Most Indians travel for leisure and spirituality, some for adventure and the rest for entertainment and business. In these varied segments, a relatively smaller share in the Indian wedding segment pie seems to be the only glaring omission. When asked whether Nepal was eying a share of the lucrative Indian wedding market, he said that while the country was earlier a favourite destination for Indian weddings, the trend was catching on again. “There are several reasons for it. Nepal is a Devbhumi (land of the Gods), so it has a religious significance,” he said, enumerating that Nepal was home to the sacred Pashupatinath Temple and Janaki Mandir (A scared temple complex in Janakpur. The legend has it that a statue of Goddess Sita was found there).
He suggested that apart from being a lively destination, a hassle-free air-connectivity was the other reason helping Nepal’s positioning in the Indian market.
Sharing a favourable opinion on participating in Cinemascapes 2018, he noted that the event had “exceeded his expectations.” “We got so many insights on how to position Nepal as a filming destination. We also got the opportunity to network with important stakeholders of the Indian cinema industry, noted film producers and location guides,” he said, calling it an opportune platform for promoting the Himalayan nation.