The earthquake of 7.8 Richter scale hit Nepal with epicenter near Barpak followed by powerful aftershocks and new earthquake of 6.7 Richter scale again on April 26 causing extensive damage to the building and killing 8617 people till date. Building including historic sites that represented Nepal in the world of tourism was damaged. The quake was followed by more than 200 aftershocks and another huge earthquake of 7.3 Richter scale on May 12 resulting in damages of buildings and more deaths.
Nepal is known around the world for its tourism and the due to the earthquake the tourism in Nepal has suffered a major hit. Tourism in Nepal is one of the most important economic pillars of the country and is important for various reasons such as sources of foreign exchange earnings, direct and indirect employment opportunities, cultural exchanges and publicity of the nation.
In the past we have seen that the various natural disasters around the world has caused innumerous amount of damage in the tourism industry and how they have been able to revive their tourism in the following years. The aftermaths of the disaster results in fear and with easy access to internet and with the help of social networking sites the fear is communicated quickly without proper assessment. When these news are relayed through such social networking sites and news, the fear of such crisis keeps the tourist from travelling. And it is important to disseminate information to overcome their fears because it is the biggest demotivator in our context and we need to correct the misconceptions related to it immediately to avoid the long term effect.
Proper information of the damage done should be released specially by various organisation so that other stake holders have genuine information. The role of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) can be crucial at this time to relay proper information of the damages at the different trekking routes, Heritage sites and tourist hubs and time it will take to fully restored. It is also a right time to make the best use of the financial resource available at NTB to promote Nepal to the world. Similarly Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN) should provide updated information of each and every hotels including the names of the hotels and the damaged caused. Trekking Agents Association of Nepal (TAAN), should make proper assessment of the damaged routes and provide updated information on these routes and if they trekking routes are operational and if not how soon will it be. Other organizations should also come together in helping to update information.
To overcome and meet the uphill task of reviving tourism in Nepal in the aftermath of the earthquake and the fear among the travelers there is the need to gather certain information for research and analysis and then provide solution for the problem. Tourism committee is not adequate during this crisis thus another high level committee should be formed to address this situation under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister or Deputy Prime Minister including the membership of Minister of Finance and Ministry of Tourism and only few key association.
The outbound tour operators can play major role in disseminating the information to the actual tourist. Thus they should be used as the bridge to relay information about Nepal coordinating with airlines and hotels to promote Nepal.
FAM trips for existing tour operators, international journalists and organization such as UNWTO and PATA along with new tour operators is essential to let the world know that Nepal is and always have been a safe destination. In order to meet this task, it is important to mobilize the embassies strongly.
Many celebrities such as Richard Gere have shown great love for Nepal. Their reach to the general public is larger than any other association, thus using them as a “Brand Ambassador of Nepal” can provide global reach in disseminating information about Nepal as a safe destination can be crucial. Tourism industry in Nepal is going to face serious problem if the current fear of the earthquake in Nepal is not addressed and country wise marketing strategy is not implemented as soon as possible.
The reason that Nepal is popular is due to the friendly nature of the people and the security that we provide. With growing competition from neighboring countries who are selling themselves as tourist destination, our country needs to rise up above the crisis and maintain a steady relationship with the airlines, hotels, tour operators and every other stake holders who will help rebuild and revive the image of the country.