Leveraging on land-based tourism to protect Nepalese tourism industry in the post-pandemic era

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Economy

Following the need to abide by the social-distancing measures in public zones, travelling via air will not be the same after the pandemic. The new standard of hygiene and sanitation to be maintained among the passengers in aircrafts is likely to significantly shrink the global supply of airline seats in comparison to that of the pre-pandemic era. Because, airlines will have to seat passengers such that they are at a safe distance apart, and therefore, will have to operate their airplanes below full capacity. International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects airlines to operate at nearly 40 percent lower capacity if the middle seats have to be eliminated. Meanwhile, the price of airfare is also likely to hike substantially whilst markets correct to the new equilibrium. IATA, for instance, expects airfares to soar by 54 percent for travellers in Asia-Pacific region. As a result, the repercussion is likely to be felt heavily in the tourism sector in years to come. 

Tourism sector, in the meantime, is already amongst the sectors that are hit hardest by the spread of Covid19 around the globe. And, to cushion the disruption in tourism sector following the rise of airfares, tourism entrepreneurs, governments, and other concerned stakeholders should expedite necessary steps and measures. Particularly, in Nepal, there are numerous measures that Government can take during the upcoming budget speech to preserve the price competitiveness and also improve the global and regional revenue share of Nepalese tourism industry.

As such, one of the measures that the government should focus on is incorporating high-spending international tourists on the category of markets that involves tourists arriving via land. As of now, tourists arriving from the southern border points of the country primarily involves conservative tourists with religious motive arriving for the sole purpose of visiting limited pilgrimage sites in the country. Such nature of tourism that has historically pronounced our land-based tourism market has limited the revenue absorption capacity of this market category. 

In the meantime, leveraging on the North-South road corridors that is expected to connect all southern border points to the northern Himalayan districts of the country allowing access to tourism destinations and activities across all altitudes can be a vital platform to draw international tourists willing to practice multipurpose tourism. While these corridor road projects are still on progress, these infrastructures retain the potentiality to encourage high-spending tourists willing to travel diverse destinations along the trans-Himalaya trail and engage in diverse tourism activities to also arrive via the southern border points. Importantly, this upturn in land-based tourism can allow this category of market to also contribute towards attaining increased tourism revenue absorption by promoting multipurpose tourism whilst the industry suffers limited revenue conversion.

On this footing, land-based tourism can be presently regarded as containing the potential to also cushion the expected dent in the Nepalese tourism industry amid anticipated hike in international airfares. In fact, the market of international tourists arriving via land is a major opportunity to uplift the tourism economy in the remote western hinterlands of the country that retain under-ventured tourism hotspots of which the access for tourists is likely to be eased substantially following the completion of western aspect of the North-South road corridors. Meanwhile, the land-based tourism may as well feature inclusive development whilst much cannot be anticipated from conventional market of international tourists arriving from air until foreseeable future.