KATHMANDU, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Nepali government has deferred the international tourism promotional activities planned as a part of Visit Nepal Year-2020 due to the novel coronavirus epidemic, a Nepali Cabinet minister has said.
It is a major setback for the Visit Nepal Year campaign under which the Himalayan country targeted to attract 2 million foreign tourists, almost double from foreign tourists arrivals in 2019. Nepal had received 1.19 million foreign tourists last year, according to the Department of Immigration.
"We are postponing the international tourism promotion for the time being," Yogesh Bhattarai, minister for culture, tourism and civil aviation, said Saturday. "During this crisis period, we will introduce measures to promote domestic tourism."
Bishwombher Ghimire, program coordinator at the Visit Nepal Year Secretariat, told Xinhua on Saturday that the planned promotional campaign at Berlin Tourism Fair in Germany was cancelled after the fair itself was called off by the organizer. "The planned promotional events in China have also been cancelled," he said.
According to Ghimire, Nepali government's priority has now shifted to building necessary infrastructure to handle the possible influx of foreign tourists when the situation gets better.
During the Visit Nepal Year, Nepal's biggest hope for meeting the target of foreign tourists' inflow was on arrivals from India and China, the two largest source markets for Nepal's tourism.
In 2019, Nepal had attracted 254,150 Indian tourists and 169,543 Chinese tourists, according to the immigration office. However, after the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, most of the flights between China and Nepal have been suspended which will affect the inflow of Chinese tourists this year.
However, Nepali tourism experts say it is not time to lament about the number of tourists but to express solidarity with people affected by the epidemic. "We should use this crisis period to extend support or sympathy to the Chinese partners and we can also come up with creative ideas to focus on post crisis marketing strategies," said Deepak Raj Joshi, former chief executive officer at Nepal Tourism Board, the main tourism promotion body of Nepal.
"At this time, we can focus on the promotion of domestic tourism as we did in the past after the earthquake in 2015."
Joshi also suggested that the Nepali government should provide some incentives to the tourism entrepreneurs to help cope with the losses.