Tuesday, December 20, 2011

About Time! The US Travel Advisory has been lifted!

Finally, on 7th December, good news filtered down from the US Ambassadors Facebook page, stating that the US has finally removed the travel advisory on Nepal.  His post read
"Great news - with all the progress in Nepal, we have been able to lift the State Department travel warning that has been in place for so long. A positive step for Nepal."
This was probably the best news of 2011 for the tourism industry (better than the Nepal Tourism Year 2011, which finally decided to advertise Nepal on CNN and BBC only in Nov 2011). So much to that!) A collective huge sigh of relief in Nepal, which has been reeling from over 15 years of tensions in Nepal and bad image from foreign travel advisories. So, welcome to all Americans again to Nepal. Hopefully, the travel insurance conditions will relax and outbound travel companies will take up an interest again.

I do not understand why this was not done earlier, but then I am no expert on American Foreign Policy (of which I doubt if there is an expert anyways). Agreed, at some point during the Maoist insurgency, there was threat to Americans, as the Maoist explicitly stating that they hate Americans; though in reality, the small volume of Americans who did travel during that time, enjoyed the same benefits as any other tourists, and paid up the same level of extortion money on the trails, no more, no less. No one was directly harmed, and except for a few incidents of slapping or roughing up tourists who refused to pay up (come on, you do not argue with a man with a gun when he demands USD 2 per day of trekking and gives you a receipt for it, so you may not get extorted twice).

But am not surprised anymore on delays from foreign governments, particularly less so from the American. The tourism industry of Nepal is not their concern, but their backsides are, for sure, which, in America's case, is hardly covered, considering the mess they get into all around the world. The saving grace might be the small bits they cover up, in places like Nepal, by putting blanket travel advisories (see, we protect our people, from the MAOISTS of Nepal, who are a threat to American freedom of movement! And we will only remove the travel advisory when we are comfortable that it is stable).

Since 2007, when I started this blog, I have been writing that in Nepal, you need to pad your trip, because there might be delays (caused by landslides, busses not being on time, flights not taking off, or the odd political demonstration which announces a general strike in cities, in small towns, and also sometimes on the road between destinations). This has not changed, though the political demonstrations might have gone done a slight bit (even the proverbially patient people of Nepal have had enough!). So why all this delay in lifting the travel advisory?

One could say that the travellers who really want to come will still travel, advisory or not. Its true, but it can also have drastic effects. Typically, for the long haul tourism industry like in Nepal, it will take about two years before this positive news will make an impact. Firstly, the travel industry in the US will take it cautiously, they will have to develop new programs and start marketing it. Client will be cautious, but lower insurance premiums will promote it now a bit. And of course, the flow has to start, and then it has to self propagate.

I sincerely hope that the shortsighted political bunglers we have as leaders in Nepal will not let the situation slide from wherever it is (which is nowhere) and bring the dreaded travel advisory back before that!

Having said all this, have to thank Scott H. DeLisi, the American Ambassador in Nepal. He does like traveling around Nepal, and I am sure he lobbied on behalf of Nepal, and plays a part in making this happen.

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