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Tourist vehicles to get passes on poll day

The Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has said there will be no inconveniences for tourists during the Constituent Assembly (CA) election scheduled for Nov 19 as it has made arrangements for them to get around without problems.

Responding to concerns expressed by travel trade entrepreneurs that the government had not made any action plan to manage tourist movement during the polls, the board said it had been working on Plan B in coordination with the Home Ministry.

“Like during the 2008 CA election, the NTB will issue passes for tourist vehicles so that they can travel without hindrance,” said Aditya Baral, spokesperson of the NTB. “Besides the movement of tourist vehicles, all hotels and restaurants will remain open on election day.”

However, overland tourists will be affected during election day as all the border points will be sealed from the evening of Nov 18  to Nov 20. November is the tourist high season in Nepal when arrivals reach more than 83,000.

Traditionally, Nov 3 and 4 are marketed as good days for tourism as tourist arrivals peak on those two days. Daily airline movement at Tribhuvan International Airport reaches around 450 on those days.

However, Baral said that if the ongoing election code violations and demonstrations by political parties continue, the country’s tourism industry could be harmed.

Meanwhile, the board said that it would be activating its entire crisis cell to facilitate tourist movement during the 10-day nationwide strike which the CPN-Maoist has announced it will hold from Nov 11.

The board has established tourism crisis cells at major tourist cities to deal with undesirable happenings and assist tourists in case of emergency.

“As tourism businesses are worried that uncertainty and security concerns will keep tourists away, the government needs to ensure the safety of visitors during the election and the days of the strike,” said Ashok Pokhrel, president of the Nepal Association of Tour Operators (NATO).

According to Mohan Khanal, sales and marketing manager of the Hotel Shangri-La, almost all the hotels are sold out for November and effects of the election have not been visible in the hospitality sector. “Everything is normal as of now,” he added.

“However, the hotel business in the future will depend on the condition of the country’s security.”

Nepal’s tourism industry has been recovering from a massive beating it took during the decade-long armed conflict (1996-2006) and has been working to revive its image. The Nepal Tourism Year campaign in 2011 was launched in a bid to rejuvenate the tourism sector by sending a message to the international community that Nepal is safe to visit.

According to the Tourism Ministry, there were 803,092 visitors to Nepal last year, among whom 632,767 were first timers. According to the ministry, 48 percent of the total arrivals visited Nepal for travel and holidaymaking.

Around 14 percent of the tourists went trekking and mountaineering, the segments that require tourists to spend long periods outside Kathmandu. Similarly, over 13 percent of the tourists in Nepal last year came for pilgrimage.

The contribution of tourism to the country’s GDP increased to 2.0 percent in 2011-12 from 1.8 percent in 2010-11. In 2009-10, tourism contributed 2.4 percent. The country earned Rs 30.70 billion from the travel sector in 2011-12 against Rs 24.61 billion in 2010-11.

source: ekantipur, 01 NOV 2013

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