In a question and answer interview with the Ceylon Digest Mr. Achyut Sharma Guragain the president of Nepal Tour Operators Association says ….
Q: What made you go into promoting tourism in Nepal?
A: It has been more than 30 years of my finest experience in the tourism industry operating Adventure, Heritage, Pilgrimage tours in this region. There is a deep attachment and enthusiasm towards tourism from me. Tourism lets you meet people from different walks of life and the idea of learning is never-ending. We share our understandings and there are wide opportunities and you grow. Also, the idea of the contribution for the tourism and to the economy as well in the country feels indeed motivating. The promotion of the country nationally and globally definitely makes you feel delighted.
I am fortunate to be born in Nepal where Nepal is a country of Never Ending Peace And Love! Nepal’s natural beauty, hospitality and diversified products including its indigenous culture and adventure have already succeeded in drawing the attention of a greater number of people. I am glad to showcase such products to people over the world.
Q: What do you think about Sri Lanka as a tourism centre of South Asia?
A: We all know Sri Lanka is known as the paradise of islands with natural beauty, historical and cultural offerings and it is the land of warm hospitality. It has something for everyone I believe. Sri Lanka has a good tourism infrastructure, with well-developed road systems and transport networks. Sri Lanka is somewhere like a hidden destination that is evolving and has a lot of potentials. As we discussed with many dignitaries during our conversations and also on my visit, I’ve understood that in Sri Lanka, tourism is an important priority. There have been services expansion in the tourism sector, the addition of several international hotel chains, air connectivity and expansion of national carrier Sri Lankan Airlines routes.
The nearby destinations, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka has a lot of potentials to establish as a centre of South Asia.
Q: What do you think about response showed by Sri Lanka in promoting tourism?
A: I have mentioned earlier as well. We’ve seen Tourism being an important priority for the country.
The Embassy of Sri Lanka in Nepal has shown very much supportive gestures towards Nepal. Previously as well as Present Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Nepal has been kind and helpful in every of NATTA’s endeavours. Likewise, many Tourism Promotion Associations has been doing activities to heighten the tourism image of Sri Lanka regionally and internationally.
NATTA, on the other hand, too has seriously been putting in its efforts to reach the message about the Sacred Garden of Lumbini in Nepal, the birthplace of Lord Gautama Buddha and many other activities that Sri Lankan people would love to explore. We had the opportunity of getting ourselves enlightened enough about Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan experience in expanding Sri Lankan tourism as well as Nepalese Tourism at our Missions, Promotion programs having the participation of tourism leaders, tour operators from Sri Lanka.
Q: As the president of Nepal Tour Operators Association what are your proposals for promoting tourism in South Asia?
A: Nepal Association of Tour & Travel Agents (NATTA) was founded in 1966 which is even before the formation of Tourism Ministry in Nepal. In keeping with the understanding that NATTA is the pioneering association of the tour/travel agents in the country, it has the responsibility to organize and coordinate Destination Promotion Programs, Sales-missions and Road-Shows in the touristically most potential neighbouring and other friendly countries. Nepal now stands as a unique destination for tourists from all over the world for its exotic nature and culture. Rich bio-diversity, highest peaks, deepest gorges and mystic ambience, practice of shamanism in most parts of the country, changing lifestyles of the people, World class Cultural and Natural Heritage sites, adventurous sports, rafting and trekking suitable to people of all age groups etc have abundantly drawn the attention of the visitors. Also, Lumbini, the Birthplace of Lord Buddha and seven monuments in Kathmandu are possible to reach within the minimum radius.
We do receive thousands of tourists from Sri Lanka every year who love to visit Nepal. Similarly, Sri Lanka is becoming a preferred outbound destination for quite a several affluent Nepalese travellers. As Nepal is a landlocked country, Nepalese people cannot indulge in that authentic beach experience.
It is indeed good news that Sri Lankan Airlines has started its direct flight to Nepal. But the charge to travel to Sri Lanka is relatively much high. People are eager to travel from both sides. The direct air connectivity had been great hope in the tourism, therefore for mutual promotion, there needs to be a reasonable Fare.
Likewise, in the context of South Asia, despite several initiatives, complicated travel procedures, inadequate infrastructure and transport facilities together with a negative image arising from safety and security concerns, have constrained intra-regional tourism. Such concerns should be communicated and innovative marketing strategies should be broadened.
Q: How can tourist board of Nepal help Sri Lanka in promoting tourism?
A: Nepal Tourism Board has been actively playing various promotional roles for tourism development in the country. Sri Lanka- Nepal relations are founded on the realities of history. And we look ahead to seeing this relationship grow ever stronger in the years to come through our mutual tourism. Nepal has something for everyone. We do receive thousands of tourists from Sri Lanka who love to come to the holy birthplace of Lumbini at least once in their lifetime. Sri Lanka has been one of the fourth largest tourist generating markets for Nepal.
The organization of tourism promotional programs, MICE Events in both countries bilaterally in coordination with NATTA, NTB, Ministry of Tourism in Nepal and Embassies of both countries can be a key promotional campaign. Likewise, a bilateral FAM Trip can be organized inviting renowned media personalities and other key people from the travel and tourism trade.
NATTA together with Nepal Tourism Board has been in promotional campaigns and I would like to assure NATTA is ready to extend all needful co-operation in any of the endeavours to promote tourism in particular.