Global travel industry figures will converge on Kathmandu next week for the first Asian Resilience Summit in Nepal.
Nepal Tourism Board chief executive Deepak Raj Joshi said: “The earthquake was a big blow to our tourism economy.
“The event gives us a chance to demonstrate the resilience capacity of Nepal and provide insight on how to prepare for the future. It’s also a chance for local and international players to network.”
The earthquake in April 2015, the biggest in the region since the 1930s, struck near Kathmandu and killed almost 9,000.
Joshi explained: “There was a perception that all of Nepal was flattened, but it was not. The earthquake affected 11 out of 75 major districts.”
The recovery has nonetheless been spectacular. In the year before the earthquake Nepal attracted 800,000 international visitors.
“In 2018, we received 1.2 million,” said Joshi. “The first year was quite slow, but since then there has been remarkable growth. It was a very quick recovery.”
He told Travel Weekly: “The community is resilient. There was no disease [following the earthquake] and from the first moment people were ready to give hospitality to tourists.”
Joshi joined the tourism board as the country’s first head of tourism just after the earthquake. He said: “We did focused initiatives to communicate with the right people.
“We approached some new markets and tried to revive our existing markets.”
Nepal’s biggest market by visitor arrivals is India, followed by China and the US, with Sri Lanka fourth and the UK fifth. But UK and US visitors stay the longest.
Joshi said: “We did not have any [promotion] programme for a long time in the US. In the last year we did a lot of programmes and the US is now our third-largest source market.
Germany and France are Nepal’s other main markets in Europe, but it is reaching new markets in Poland and Eastern Europe, while in Asia it has targeted Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.
He said: “We have changed some marketing strategies. Nepal was seen as very seasonal [focused on October and November]. Now we promote the summer and monsoon seasons.”
Trekking remains a key sector – “30%-35% of visitors go trekking”, according to Joshi. But he insisted: “Nepal is not only a mountain and adventure destination.
“Kathmandu is popular as a heritage site, and about 200,000 of last year’s 1.2 million visitors visited Buddhist sites.” Nepal was the birthplace of Gautama Buddha.
The tourism board’s 2020 Experience Nepal Campaign will emphasise the country’s wildlife and spiritual values as well as adventure “in all markets and some new ones”, he said.
“The country is highly resilient and our tourism trade very resilient.”
Speakers at the summit will include Pacific Asia Travel Association chief executive Mario Hardy; Jamaica tourism minister Edmund Bartlett – founder of the Global Tourism Resilience Centre; Taleb Rifai, chairman of the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council (GTTRC) and former UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) general secretary; and UNWTO regional secretary Xu Jing.
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