अतिथी देवो भव: (Guests are God in Nepal)

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Recently, we witnessed 38th World Tourism Day. It was celebrated for the first time on September 27, 1980, by The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO.) The date had once coincided with an important milestone in world tourism i.e. the anniversary of the adoption of the UNWTO Statutes on September 27, 1970. And viewing all the activities and announcements of Nepal Tourism Board throughout the day, I too remembered an incident and thought to share.

When I was in college back in 2008, I along with some of my college friends went to Thamel. We witnessed a scenario which was absolutely strange for me at that point in time. A shopkeeper of an art-craft shop was very confidently demanding 5 times the real price and the tourists were happily paying it. We too had asked the price of that crafted mug and knew the real price. Later, the vendor very intelligently cleared my confusion and made me understand the whole story. Those foreigners didn’t have any idea about the price of a curio in Nepal. I am still confused, was that the only reason behind their unequal treatment with the customer? This may be a very innocent query but a significant one.

We may enchant we’ve solely adopted the Sanskrit verse “Atithi Devo Bhawa (Guests are God)” but a reality if full of contradiction. We’ve witness people violating its actual meaning. It’s a fraud. Tourist services affiliated to Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has a commitment to helping foreign tourists if they face any difficulties. Officially, there isn’t any procedure through which tourists can have genuine information about the price of goods. Some say, “Tourism Board of Nepal has maintained the facility of tourist guide to solving such errors”. Believe it or not, those tourist guides have some sort of ‘setting’ or say ‘commission fixation’ for bringing tourists to those shops. They misguide them to pay higher prices neglecting the fact that if such a system prevails, some years hence that illegal price would turn into the real price. The future is dark because no doubt; it will invite recession and we have to face it solely.

This isn’t a hidden fact. Because of Nepal’s heart-throbbing attributes, tourism is the largest industry as well as the source of foreign exchange and revenue. Large sections of our country are dependent on the tourism industry. It’s the main source of economic sustenance after agriculture. It has employed nearly 42% of the total working population of Nepal. According to revenue statistics published by The Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation of Nepal in July 2009, the total gross foreign exchange earnings in convertible currency from tourism earnings in 2008 were 351,968,000(US dollars) a remarkable increase of 52.6% compared to the earning in 2007. If revenue statistic is to be believed, Nepalese tourism had earned the US $368.773 million or Rs. 32.45224 billion in 2011 and has witnessed decrement of 3.3% i.e. US $356,725 million or Rs. 31.3918 billion during the year 2012 which is an alarm that we have started to lack the expectation.

The World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) report has projected that the travel trade sector’s contribution to the country’s total employment will rise by 7 percent. Nepal is expected to attract 946,000 international tourists. But WTTC is unaware of the existing problems. And if the problem isn’t addressed and precautionary measures aren’t taken; then the expectation is useless. The government should step up strict measures to monitor basic mismanagement in the tourism industry. Not a single tourist should depart with disappointments. Else, the day isn’t far when the dual price system for the same commodity would exist. And, because of the tourist’s high purchasing capacity, Nepalese can’t stay untouched with the dual price. We might have to depend upon it.

(memoir by: Suresh Mukhiya)

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