Having just returned from Kathmandu, I realise that it is one of the few places in the world where there is a direct inverse correlation between the temperature of the environment and the warmth of the people. The colder it gets, the warmer the people!
The purpose of this is to share some personal thoughts on how Nepal could further develop its economy and deliver on its vast potential. It is not intended to give an economic analysis of Nepal’s development, but for robust information in that area, the following link will be a good place to start: http://www.adb.org/countries/nepal/economy
Specific areas for development
Improvements in airport infrastructure and management (in brief: outsource to external private contractors)
The airport management system at Nepal currently is not optimal nor ideal to support increased volumes of tourist arrivals. The immigration queues are normally snaking through the entry doors and it takes an excessively long time for individuals to clear the airport customs. Airports tend to provide the first view to a new tourist and shape one’s own perceptions of a country. First impressions tend to be lasting ones.
Airport infrastructure improvements are extremely financially incentive affairs and governments often find it difficult to raise necessary capital and finances to support the required improvements. However, one possibility the Nepal government can consider is to outsource the management of the airport, immigration and customs duties to an independent private company and impose on them strict Service Level Agreements (SLAs). This is widely practiced in countries such as Singapore where SATS (Singapore Airport Terminal Systems) Pte Ltd is the private contractor who manages the Changi Airports. This has led to better efficiencies and also improved the customer/passenger experience.
An improved airport management system will certainly encourage repeat tourists and business visitors owing to the ease of travel and entry/exit into Nepal. It also will lead to better clarity on immigration and customs procedures and systems (something that is not clearly available at the moment).
External tourist agency for Nepal in select countries (in brief: Nepal as a centre for tourism. Regional/international tourism centres established by the Nepal government. Tie-ups with regional airlines serving Nepal airport. Consider new potential markets like the Middle East and South America aside from traditional visitor markets in South Asia, Europe, Australia and South East Asia).
Nepal should also consider establishing tourism centres in a number of targeted countries to encourage tourist arrival numbers. The impact of a tourism centre in increasing the number of a visitors from a particular country cannot be underestimated.
This will require a significant investment on Nepal’s part, but with the increased tourism dollars as a result of these investments, we can be reasonably certain that there will be a significant returns on investment (with a relatively short payback period).
Nepal should also consider working with airlines serving Nepal (particularly regional ones like Silkair, Thai Airways and Qatar Airways) to promote Nepal as a centre for tourism destination and to set up joint country promotions. This will have an impact in increasing passenger volume for both the airlines and also Nepal.
In addition to the traditional markets of South Asia, South East Asia, Europe and Australia, Nepal should also perhaps consider new markets like the Middle East (where Nepal can be an attractive and relatively nearby destination during their sweltering, hot summer seasons) , South America (where the allure of the mountains of Nepal can prove to be an intoxicating difference) and Africa (particular the rising middle-class in Africa who seek to explore new places aside from the traditional European/American destinations).
Burgeoning MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, exhibitions) potential for Nepal (in brief: Nepal could be a choice location conferences, regional corporate meetings, exhibitions, staff retreats etc for most Asian countries)
Nepal’s geographical proximity to a wide number of countries (from Europe to Asia) and her natural advantages (beauty of surroundings, weather) and relative low costs could result in Nepal being a primary MICE location. Plenty of large corporate companies could host their regional meetings, staff retreats and conferences and exhibitions in Nepal.
Obviously this will necessitate investment in other areas including infrastructure (roads, stable electricity, etc), facilities (meeting halls, sufficient business grade hotels, etc) and training of local staff to accommodate the needs that come along with MICE.
Nepal as the medical destination of choice (in brief: Nepal could be a key medical hub for Asia and Europe and has natural advantages which can facilitate this development including great weather, relative low-cost and a generally spiritual environment conducive for healing)
Nepal has plenty of natural advantages that could potentially establish it as a key medical hub for medical visitors from Europe, the Middle East and Asia. There are already plenty of regional students pursuing their medical degrees (MBBS) in Nepal. If investment is made by a private medical health group and encourage some key physicians and medical experts to be based in Nepal at different times in the year, there is a real possibility of Nepal becoming a choice destination for individuals seeking medical treatment. Currently, Asian and European individuals go to Singapore, Thailand, India and Cuba (which has an excellent medical system). Nepal could also join the ranks of these nations.
Furthermore, Nepal also has a calming and enriching spiritual environment which is critical for healing. Emotional fulfillment is critical to physical recuperation.
Promotion of Nepal as an ecotourism destination and perfect location for movie/film shoots.
Nepal has significant potential to be a key ecotourism hub. Nepal needs to ensure that in the wake of various industrial developments (particularly in the energy sector) that it does not neglect her own environmental obligations and protection of its rich biodiversity.
Nepal’s scenery and settings could also be a prime film shooting location for Bollywood and even Hollywood films!
The above are some suggested developmental opportunities for Nepal. A nation that has gone through significant changes in a relatively short span of time. However, it is a nation that has kept its heart and where people remain fundamentally passionate about the causes that matter the most for them and their loved ones. If this passion is retained, then I am in no doubt that the good times will be back soon!