The tourism industry has come to an absolute halt since the beginning of the nationwide lockdown on March 24, and with every single day that it is extended, the industry loses millions of rupees. From the local guides to the large enterprises, everyone is tasting the bitterness of the sector’s vegetative state while discussions regarding the hows, whats and whens of reviving it are on the rise.
But the last thing we need would be decisions to be made haphazardly, without enough research, or worse, without much information.
The development process of any industry is incomplete without the calculation of its progress. Any decision maker requires enough research, data and materials to make a decision, only then will he or she be able to allocate and utilize resources in the most efficient manner.
Tourism industry was lagging behind in data, information and research resources even before the outbreak of Covid-19. The latest data published regarding the industry is rudimentary and lacks a lot of important resources. Nepal Tourism Statistics, the most reliant source of data published by the government is yet to include the data regarding domestic tourism and even extend its categories of tourism beyond a few just basic ones.
To start with, today, when we are encouraging the idea of land-based tourism post lockdown or home-based tourism, we do not have essential data on domestic tourism. Last July, there were talks about the government finally beginning a survey on domestic tourism for the first time. It was a good initiative, but one that came too late, especially when we consider the fact that Visit Nepal 2020 was less than 6 months away.
Earlier in May, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed an agreement to develop a Tourism Satellite Account framework that can provide real data on Nepal’s tourism contribution to the economy and would be the new system for retrieving detailed information in the industry. The project was said to complete in the end of the fiscal year 2076/77 which was too late when Visit Nepal had already started months before.
Since the VNY 2020 campaign has been postponed indefinitely, let’s consider what needs to be addressed at this point. Tourism data needs to be developed faster and more elaborate than it is being now,because the stakeholders of this industry would require these data to locate patterns of tourism inflow, interests and tourist demands over the seasons, progress of new ideas in the market and assist them to tap into profitable opportunities in this industry. And they need it not in the future, but today itself to ideate strategies to implement post lockdown.
No matter what decision we make, if we do not accomplish the simple task of recording and storing data before anything else, we are very much likely to waste resources over instinctive decisions, when they would have been highly essential to recover the economy of a nation, an industry, even an individual.
While Nepal has a great potential in all dimensions of tourism, it needs a lot more data and information than just record of entry and exits of only foreign tourists and basic categorization of their purpose of visit. It’s a silly mistake that will cost the entire industry millions, even after the economy reopens.
While each of us are doing our best to soften the blow, the herculean task of bringing back the economy to exactly where it was will be almost impossible, considering that we still do not have an idea of how things will unwrap themselves even in the coming week itself.