Attracting Tourists and Forcing them Pay Thrice the Amount

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Pratiksha Gajurel

Nepal, a picturesque country is considered as the Paradise on Earth; popular amongst travellers from all over the globe. According to various surveys, Nepal is one of the most economical and affordable travel destinations in Asia. Nevertheless, have we ever taken a moment and wondered about something as basic as Air Fares?

In this era of globalization and travel, as a commuter people prefer to save time over money because, time Is money. A person commuting from Biratnagar to Kathmandu by road requires nine hours, but the same distance by a flight will take around 35 minutes only, enabling people to returning to their original destination the same day.

The minimum fare from Biratnagar to Kathmandu is around Nrs. 4,000 per person, but charges for the same route for a foreigner spikes up to cost approximately Nrs. 13000; which doesn’t not exactly come in as affordable.

In 2018, Bikalpa- an Alternative decided to organize a LIBERTY CAMP in association with “Language of Liberty Institute” in eastern Nepali city called Biratnagar. Four International speakers were invited to assist them in their endeavor. The foreigners willingly agreed to come to Biratnagar at their own expenses.

The speakers asked Bikalpa to prepare a Budget Report Approximating the costs that would be incurred during the duration of the Program. A budget report was prepared accordingly, but while inquiring about the fares for Kathmandu – Biratnagar and vice versa from different Airline Counters they got to know that a round trip ticket would cost a foreigner USD $ 238 (NRS 26400 approx.), in total USD $ 952 (NRS 105600 approx) for four people.

When this budget was forwarded to the guests, they were in disbelief. The cost was too much for a 35-minute flight and they contemplated about holding the Liberty Camp in Biratnagar and finally relocated the venue to Dhulikhel, in Kathmandu valley.

The organizers had to work hard to manage the extra funds and somehow made it possible to host the program in Biratnagar, which otherwise would have deprived the youths of Biratnagar exposure to such events and experienced International Speakers.

This might seem irrelevant to some but it is discriminating in a way for the foreigners and it raises questions like why this disparity? Do they occupy two seats instead of one? How much would it affect our wallets when we travelled to other countries as tourists and were discriminatingly charged extra amount in similar fashion abroad?

In 2018, Nepal tried to woo the world by showcasing its achievement of One Million tourists’ arrivals after the devastating earthquake. This, however, is not an extraordinary achievement for a country, which considers tourism to be its major source of income. The tourism sector is considered one of the largest industry and means of employment in Nepal and contributes to around 8% of the total GDP of the country. Nepal is expecting to host about 2 million visitors with its “Visit Nepal 2020” campaign. International Airports are being constructed in Pokhara and Bhairahawa to aid Tourism as the only International Airport in Nepal is already severely congested and can barely accommodate any more passengers.

So taking the current policies into consideration, if we achieve the target of two million tourists arrival in 2020, they will mostly be restricted to the cities that have international airports, or will have to travel by roads to go to the Terai or Himalayan regions as our Airlines will be charging more than double the flight fares for foreign nationals. If our policies force them to pay higher prices than necessary, they will ultimately opt to visit other countries that are more cost-effective, which will ultimately affect our tourism industry and the nation. It would not be wise to assume that all tourists traveling to our Nation are wealthy; many of them save for years just so that they are able to travel this far.

Tourism otherwise, has a remarkable impact in every country in the world as it is a source of bringing in foreign currency, Tourism creates employment and is also a source of promoting local products in the global markets. In addition, the hospitality industry will reap huge financial rewards from the arrivals.

To tackle this issue our government could consider reforms regarding flight fares. They should consider introducing fair ticket prices for tourists to attract other visitors to our beautiful nation. Though it seems irrelevant, the airport could generate huge revenue even if those tourists just buy small items when they arrive in transit like Hamad International Airport in Qatar, which enjoys huge benefits and reputation as a transit hub for over 30 million travellers every year.

Flight fares may be an small example; we have many more unavoidable problems and challenges that are being faced by the tourism industry in general and tourists themselves in particular such as inadequate means of entertainment, lack of quality goods for tourists, lack of publicity, lack of proper and safe facilities for tourist, internal conflicts, lack of tourism centres and so on.

We should be proud that people from around the world want to experience our diverse culture, scenic beauty, awe-inspiring Himalayan Mountains, warm hospitality among other things; we shouldn’t deprive tourist of our hospitality by not providing them with the exact services as promised or advertised. If we want to attract more tourists and earn greater revenue, Nepal government needs to work out towards reducing the economic disparity between Nepalese and visitors and also ease many other laws and policies which seem to be impractical and are prevent them from wooing more visitors. Only then will we have proper policies related to tourism that are transparent, affordable and efficient at the same time.

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