Monday, November 10, 2008

So where is the Industry now?

This follows something that I have written about before, but it is important in my mind that we revisit it. Where is the tourism industry in Nepal today?

The tourism industry had taken quite a hit in the 10 or so years of insurgency in Nepal, which finally seems to have closed its chapter. We have other problems, but hopefully insurgency at a nationwide scale as before will not come now that the Maoists have come overground.

However, the industry proved its resilience, growing even during some peak turmoil years, after the initial shock and lowest point in 2001. I personally think that part of this growth was also a global trend, fueled by the 9/11 attacks, the Bali bombing, the Madrid bombing, and the London bombings, which all proved to people that there were worse problems than in Nepal, and really, we are not really safe anywhere. So people kept coming, and the tourism industry had enough people coming to keep it striving. It also did other things.

It made the industry resilient. The industry had learnt that they have to fend for themselves, and traditional agents in the markets were quick to be disloyal when the advisories went sour. This made companies making efforts at reaching to the market, going into trade fairs, starting building better websites and marketing direct. Clients now are dealing with better websites, service, and more professional companies than before.

Companies are also now more conscious of market requirements and responsibility issues. In 2006, a project on marketing of sustainable products of Nepal by UNEP, SNV, Nepal Tourism Board and the Nepal Government, got over 50 private sector operators join the Sustainable Tourism Network. Several of them got selected for the MAST project and received training and even attended some trade shows as part of the marketing effort. It does not prove much, but shows that operators are conscious and willing to make changes for the market.

Internationalism is also coming in. Nepal recently hosted a major international mountain biking championship, actively does an international kayak championship every year, and boasts the highest marathon in the world, the Everest Marathon, which starts at 5350 meters or so at the Everest Base Camp and ends at 3440 at Namche Bazaar. (interesting fact: the first race was won by a Nepalese trekking cook!)

So the message is: Nepal is more than ready. If anything good came out of the insurgency, it did make the industry more resilient and professional.