Nepal Tourism Year 2011 and Destination Chitwan: Some Issues
Kapil Dev Subedi
Head DOM Saptagandaki Multiple Campus Chitwan, Nepal
Introduction The government of Nepal has announced the year 2011 as Nepal tourism year and targeted to reach the number of tourists visiting Nepal to be doubled i.e. one million in the year 2011. The recent statistics of visit to Nepal shows that the numbers of tourists are not exceeding more than half million, as the number were 526,705 in 2007 and 500,277 in 2008. Despite strong potential, tourism growth declined in last decade in Nepal, significantly mainly because of conflict and insecurity. However the current statistics shows that the industry has started rebounding in the country, but we need to investigate why this sector is under performing and how Nepal can increase market share in an increasingly competitive world tourism market. ‘Nepal Tourism Year 2011’ is a grand fete throughout the year which is going to celebrate in Nepal in 2011. The concept of Nepal Tourism Year 2011 was emerged to manage and develop the tourism industry of Nepal by cashing the expertise view, experiences and commitment of government with public private venture. For that Nepal tourism board is continuing in the promotional activity with public private venture internally and externally. The campaign will continue to promote Nepal in international arena through its line agencies such as Nepalese diplomatic missions abroad, I/NGOs, airlines, and national and international media, NRN community and Nepal’s friends and well-wishers. After well known historical revolution, Nepal is targeting to progress in country economy within this decade. The major concern of Nepal is to improve people living standard as soon as possible. For that Nepal can cash tourism industry to grow economy and eliminate poverty. That’s why government has realized the potential of tourism industry in the development of nation. Knowing all these facts, Government has announced Nepal Tourism Year 2011. Tourism contributes to economic growth and poverty alleviation, significantly. Nepal has a strong comparative advantage in tourism. However, the performance of the industry has remained, unsatisfactory. Measured in terms of tourist arrivals, Nepal’s share in world tourism industry is only about 0.04%. Given the fragmentation and diversity nature of the tourism industry, the Nepalese industry has been highly vulnerable to the actions of powerful external political and economic forces than any other industry making the tourism industry dependent on its components. The challenge is to translate the attractiveness of Nepal as a
tourist destination into increased tourist arrivals and raise the satisfaction of the visitors visiting the country.
Tourism Potential and Attractions
Himalayan landscape and natural beauty highly suitable for trekking and mountaineering and important religious and cultural sites including the birthplace of Buddha provide Nepal, natural advantages. Some of the major tourism products, which have made Nepal famous includes: The Himalayan landscape including the highest peak Mount Everest, Natural beauty and Hills and Mountains for adventure based activities like mountaineering, trekking, rafting, jungle safari, mountain flight etc.,Religious and spiritual sites like the famous Birth Place of Buddha –Lumbini and Pashupati Temple, a major Hindu shrine., and rich culture, costumes, traditions and festivals Despite these advantages, tourism contribution to GDP is 2.3% and it accounted for about 7% of total foreign exchange earnings in FY 2009. Nepal’s per capita tourist earnings is the lowest in South Asia .The average income per visitor per day was US $ 45 in FY 2007 and $ 73 in FY 2008. The following data depicts the gross foreign exchange earnings from tourism industry.
TABLE 1: GROSS FOREIGN EXCHANGE EARNINGS IN CONVERTIBLE CURRENCIES, 2004-2008 Total Earnings %Change Average in US$ Income per Capita in US $ ('000) Rs.('000) US$
Average Income Per Visitor Per day in US$
2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
179,941 148,441 162,790 230,617 351,968
13,146,534 10,600,345 11,784,644 15,185,071 24,802,195
-6.7 -17.5 9.7 41.7 52.7
609.8 532.0 561.0 535.0 860.3
45.1 58.5 55.0 45.0 73.0
Source-Foreign Exchange Management Department, Nepal Rastra Bank.
There is an enormous opportunity to improve the tourism industry in a higher growth path by improving infrastructures, addressing environmental degradation, enhancing tourism promotion and marketing and developing tourism products. However, even with Nepal’s strong natural comparative advantage in tourism, creating a competitive edge is not easy because of increasing worldwide competition. Development and promotion of new products, decreasing flight times and prices and globalisation have exerted pressure to
enhance quality and visibility of tourism products, improvement of tourism services and marketing and infrastructure development to compete with other countries in attracting more tourists in the country. Nepal’s main selling points according to a study are mountains (40%), beautiful nature (40%), friendly people (39%), cultural diversity (37%), and adventure tourism (2%). The most important attraction for tourist, in order of importance, according to survey carried out in 2001 are the following: Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur; Pokhara; Nagarkot; Annapurna; Chitwan; Everest; Dhulikhel; Lukla; Langtang and Lumbini.
The conventional view of destination holds that destination is well-defined geographical areas, such as a country, an island or a village. In simple word, a destination is defined as the focus of facilities and services designed to meet the needs of the tourists. Looking from the competitive angle, a destination has two major components: image and experiences, constructed through tourism marketing and encountered in a destination. According to Gilbert and Terrata the destination’s image may be based upon “ideas and impressions that a prospective traveler holds about a destination and therefore may influence tourist motivation as a pull factors”. The images held by tourists are prime motivators to travel. Therefore, destination’s image is the most important criterion for selecting to visit. A newer, conception sees the destination “as an amalgam of individual products and experience opportunities that combine to form a total experience of the area visited” In this context, Chitwan has its own unique image in the world tourism market as a destination of nature and adventure along with exceptional culture. Before 1950s Chitwan, then known itself as death valley, was covered by very dense forests containing more than 1000 square miles of virgin forests, swamps and grasslands, which was inhabited by various wild animals such as wild elephant, rhinoceros, swamp deer, water buffalo and birds. This area was then a famous area for game hunting. Previously, Chitwan suffered from Malaria, which was eradicated in 1954. After the eradication of Malaria, the area had attracted the hilly people vigorously. People started residing in the richer and fertile duns, valleys and plains. Then the development process started in Chitwan from the level of people, community and government. In 1957, the Chitwan forest was declared as Rhino Sanctuary and in 1962; Safari Tourism was introduced in Chitwan National Park for the first time. Similarly, in 1973: Royal Chitwan National Park was established as the first national park of Nepal. All these efforts oriented Chitwan as a tourist destination of Nepal. Now Chitwan has been developed itself as the third destination of Nepalese tourism due to its unique natural beauty, exclusive biodiversity, co-existence of differing languages, cultures, caste and ethnicity. The two indigenous ethnic groups,
Tharus in southern plain land and Chepangs in northern hilly area (at Mahabharat Hill range) are the bonafide inhabitants of Chitwan ,unrelentingly residing in their land since last thousands of year without any movement and Chitwan has initiated to adjoining these two differing culture and caste into the mainstream besides the wildlife tourism. Cultural diversity is another significant feature of Chitwan. Many temples of Hindus and Gompas of Budhist are located in Chitwan. Devghat Dham, Sita Gunpha, Panchpandav, Bikram Baba Temple, Balmiki Ashram, Brahma Chauri and Laxmi Narayan Temple, Godak Nath Temple and several holy ponds have religious and historical significance. Status of Tourism in Chitwan The history of tourism industry in Chitwan traces back to the establishment of Royal Chitwan National Park in 1973 A.D. The figure of tourists arriving Chitwan in 1975 A.D was only 836, meanwhile this statistics reached to 86443 tourists in 2007 A.D, a hundred times increase after the period of 3 decades. The important aspects of this arrival is that out of total tourist visiting Chitwan, 35210 i.e, 66.97% were the visitors from the third country and 3449 tourist were from the SAARC nations. Table-2 Tourist arrivals in Nepal and Chitwan National Park (20012007) Total no. of Share of arrival Year tourists in CNP Percentage 2001 361237 82547 22.85 2002 275468 46705 16.95 2003 338132 56303 16.65 2004 385297 43061 11.18 2005 375398 52572 14.00 2006 383926 60125 15.66 2007 526705 86443 16.41 Source: DNPWC, Annual Reports And MoCTCA, Nepal Tourism Statistics(2001-2007) The study of visitor’s purpose indicates that the majority of tourists arriving from the third countries come to chitwan for visiting nature and wildlife in national park. If Chitwan only concentrates its tourism in nature and wildlife, it cannot achieve the further benefits of culture and adventure tourism. Therefore the diversification of tourism in culture, eco-tourism, education, medical and other areas is the matter of immense importance for the development and growth of tourism in Chitwan. It has been so late to formulate and implement the Unified tourism development action plan in Chitwan therefore effort should be taken as soon as possible from the private and government level.
Attempts have been made to buildup the infrastructure of tourism industry in Chitwan both from government and private level. The district has developed the destnation network of Ring Road and Chitwan Chepang Hill Trail in the northern Mahabharat mountain range linking hilly area (habitat of indigenous Chepangs) to the low land of Terai (habitat of indigenous Tharus) national park. A number of hotels, resorts, and lodges have also been managed outside and inside the national park. There were 62 hotels and lodges in national park and buffer zone area having 758 rooms and 1559 beds in 2007 A.D. A study indicates that 1832 personnel (skilled and unskilled), 137 elephants, 104 motor vehicles, 71 carts, 10 boats, 2 camels and some horse carts are in operation for the delivery of better services to tourist. Targeting the upcoming Nepal Tourism Year 2011 (NTY 2011) national campaign, over a half-dozen tourist standard hotels are launching in Sauraha. Satanchuli Wildlife View Resort and Alka Resort Camp have started operation while Jungle World Resort, Monalisa Jungle Resort, Nature Heritage Resort and Jungle Safari Lodge are under construction. With the coming of new hotels, the old ones have started upgrading their capacity and standards to meet the required standards and facilities of tourists. An attempt has been made to deliver the services to the tourists through the hotels under construction within two years. Almost all the new hotels have been designed like indigenous Tharu community houses. With the mounting competition, about 30 percent of the hotels have added new rooms. There are 67 hotels in Sauraha and about 7 new hotels are coming with a huge investment including the five star one -the hotel Radisson. This year, hotels have increased their accommodation capacity to 1,700 beds from 1,400 previously. And the target number of beds is two thousands for the year 2011. Chitwan has unparalleled natural beauty, couple with extremely varied and diverse attractions. However the tourism industry in Chitwan has been facing a number of challenges which needs to be addressed as soon as possible for the success of tourism year 2011. The major issues are: Political instability, strikes, bandh and disturbances Limited infrastructure including shortages of hotel beds in the peak seasons, limited road accessibility and lower quality roads • Inadequate promotion and development of natural, cultural and religious attractions • Poor service quality including in the first point of contact on arrival—that is —customs, immigration and airport halls to the destination and even in the hotels. • Inadequate marketing and research
All these challenges have to be addressed and potential tourist products should be developed for the success of NTY 2011. Some of the activities that need to be immensely started are;
If as per government assumption, the number of tourist arriving Nepal get doubled in 2011, the prevailing hotel facilities are inadequate to serve the demand of tourists, therefore it needs to make provision of ‘home stay’. For which proper physical arrangements should be made and hospitality training should be given to the host. 2. To make access the information of NTY 2011, a huge media campaign should be initiated promptly in the international arena. Chitwan should develop the e-portals which would be the information cum reservation oriented commercial travel website facilitating the online travel. 3. The status of local infrastructures i.e. road access to Sauraha, electricity, water, vehicles facilities and many more others are in such vulnerable position that they should be kept in track as far as possible. 4. As the major political parties has committed for “No Strike on NTY 2011” in national level, the same should be committed in the local level also. 5. Develop close coordination between all hotels, resorts, restaurants, shops, all organizations and institutions working in tourism. 6. Produce standard and special brochures about Sauraha and Chitwan as unique destination and create a special image and special brand distinguishing it from other destinations of Nepal. 7. Identify the major tourism products of Chitwan i.e. one horne rhinoserces, sun rise from Sirainchuli, sunset in Rapti River, Tharu culture, special culture and occasions, Narayani boating, Chitwan Chepang Hill trails,etc and start to develop and promote it. 8. Strengthen quality of teaching at all hospitality and tourism training institutes and promote in service training 9. Develop service monitoring mechanism 10. Enforce developed standards in the services to be provided in hotels and restaurants 11. Strengthen and expand tourism information centres 12. Develop and implement security services in the Sauraha area, especially in the context of developing wilderness and adventure tourism 13. Develop consumer (tourist) service strategy based on exit survey of the tourists 14. Expand the volume and value of tourism by repackaging and promoting presently available tourism products and strength 15. Reduce the seasonal nature of tourism, which is often founded on incorrect assumptions about weather patterns, and improve the seasonal and spatial distribution of visitors 16. Develop the theme for promotion (e.g. religion and pilgrimage, nature and wildlife, wilderness and adventure, cultural heritage etc.)
Tourism is one of the industries having comparative advantage in Nepal. The government and other development partners are persuaded that the country can strengthen its economy with the promotion and protection of tourism
industry. Despite the downward trends of this sector in the period of conflict, the ray of hope is seen after the initiation of peace restoration process in Nepal. NTY 2011 aims to promote Nepalese tourism industry and support for the development and growth of Nepalese economy. Therefore, we all need to support for success of NTY 2011.