Despite India being Nepal’s biggest tourism source market, there is little awareness amongst Indian outbound travellers about Nepal’s immense product diversity beyond the famous Pashupatinath Temple or climbing and trekking, feels Dr. Dhanajay Regmi, CEO, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB). In India to attend his first international travel exhibition, SATTE 2021, since taking over the reign of NTB last year, Regmi and his team is keenly engaging the Indian trade with the message that “Nepal is much more than spiritual tourism and the mountains.” NTB is the national tourism organization mandated to develop and market Nepal as an attractive tourism destination.
“We undertook massive preparation, including new product development, towards publicizing and marketing Nepal for the ‘Visit Nepal Year 2020’ that was announced much before the pandemic struck. Focusing on that a number of new tourism activities and new tourism products were introduced, but before we could advertise about these or inform the world about the new developments, the whole world was closed due to the pandemic. We have been looking for opportunity to talk about the new developments. SATTE was the first opportunity that we got since the lockdown,” he said.
“Today, we have most of the top international hotel chains. We have the best of clubs and a very vibrant night life in Nepal. People are even chartering flights to enjoy their weekend and holidays in Nepal. We have come up with many wonderful resorts along the Indo-Nepal border where one can do most of the river activities, enjoy the casinos and these resorts are much more than five-star properties. People don’t know that the tiger population has doubled in Nepal in the last five years. So any national parks that you go to in Nepal, the chances of sighting the tiger is almost 100 per cent. These are but some of the things that the world doesn’t know about Nepal. Especially in the Indian market, people think that Nepal means Pashupatinath and are only going for spiritual, religious and pilgrimage reasons and not for other reasons. This is why we are saying Nepal is much more,” Regmi added.
Drawing attention to the ease of accessibility and travel, especially for the Indian travellers, Regmi said that most of Indian travellers while planning their visit to Nepal only know of air access via Kathmandu which is not true. “Nepal is connected to India from seven custom points and if you include the international airport then there are eight places from where Indian travellers can enter into Nepal,” informed the CEO.
“There is huge opportunity in promoting border tourism. Indians living in the Gangetic plain along the Indo-Nepal border, can be in the hill stations of Nepal at an altitude of 800 meters and above in just one or two hours’ drive. Even for people from Delhi and NCR people do not have to only fly in order to travel to Nepal. Instead people can reach Western Nepal by road in just three and half hour drive. From there on, one can drive through scenic landscape, forests and hills, stopover wherever they want en route to Kathmandu while also visiting National Parks along the way, birthplace of Lord Buddha, religious places like Swargadwari, while also relishing Nepal’s cultural diversity along the way,” he further added.
Commenting on Nepal’s participation at SATTE 2021, Regmi said, “Nepal has taken it as a big opportunity because only a few countries have participated at SATTE this year because of the pandemic. So this is the time we can easily and effectively communicate with the Indian trade, tell them that Nepal is open, inform them about our products and attractions and easy accessibility, not only by air but also by road. Out of those few countries which are open to Indian tourists, Nepal is one of them. But this message unfortunately is not there in the market. Indian travellers can visit Nepal to enjoy great nature, night life, casinos, water based activities, adventure activities.”
Regmi also informed that notwithstanding all the confusion surrounding international travel, Nepal continue to be easily accessible for Indian tourists. “We have greatly simplified it for Indian visitors to come to Nepal. One has to just come with a RT-PCR report and there is no need for another RT-PCR upon arrival. Under the air bubble agreement, you can simply fly into Nepal with a negative report and there is no quarantine upon arrival also. It’s all so safe as our service providers are well equipped with all the pandemic related safety protocols.”