“This is the time to survive but plan to revive the tourism industry” says Mr. Badri Nepal, the President of Tourist Guide Association of Nepal in an interview with Online Kathmandu on 19th March 2021.
- What is your assessment of the situation of Nepal’s tourism at present?
Not only in Nepal but also world over, the tourism industry is going through a critical time. Workers and professionals are sadly moving to other sectors because of the lack of job opportunities within, huge investment poured on to tourism industry is effected, the campaign of Visit Nepal Year 2020 had to get cancelled and grassroot workers are the victims. These are the sad realities.
Brighter sides of the situation are the opportunities of improving and developing tourism industry to the next level and create more jobs with the industry in the coming months and years.
- How has TURGAN been contributing to the revive the industry?
Tourist Guide Association is one of the networks guides in Nepal are associated with. It is spreading the positive message that Nepal is safe to travel. Recently, it has a new executive committee. The previous executive committee had contributed a lot to the safety of the guides. We, now, are dedicated to make TURGAN better and a more formidable force in Nepalese tourism. We have developed plans to introduce refreshment programs and trainings for our members. We are lobbying to government and the regulatory bodies for creating more friendly environment for tourists and remove hurdles and hassles affecting the industry.
In the meantime, TURGAN wishes to see the tourism authorities improve the infrastructures like arrangement of cleaner toilets in heritage sites, parking space and improvements in environmental issues.
We also are strongly spreading the optimistic message that tourism will be back soon.
- What are the major challenges while operating under the present conditions?
The situation is no guest – no job. To remain in the profession is challenging for guides in Nepal. They are among the most affected by the pandemic. Tour guides are the most unfortunate victims. Many of them are moving out of the profession.
Vaccinating all the tour guides for the safety of the guests is a big challenge too. The issue of untrained and not licensed guides active in the industry and the foreigners or guides or tour leaders working without permission. We have, with the help of tourist police, penalized a few but we want the government and regulatory bodies to control them.
- What are the areas Nepal should concentrate on to reposition Nepal on the world map?
This is the time to survive and plan for revival. We should focus on developing newer products and making the environment cleaner. We need to revisit our tourism acts and policies which is really old.
It is a good time to concentrate on domestic tourism. It has produce a momentum and benefit the industry if executed well.
- Do you expect some sort of support from the government? Why and what kind of support should government provide tourism professionals?
It is said that tour guides are the ambassadors of the country and reflect the reality of the country. But during the pandemic, we think the affected professionals are being forgotten. A large sum of money is being channelized to the local sector to combat the pandemic but tourist guides are left to suffer without support. Guides have lost the jobs and opportunities to work and not just for a year!
We have been raising our issues to the government but without any tangible support. We want our profession be safe and insured. We need some financial support from the government for our livelihood.
On the backdrop of Covid-19 and about 5,000 licensed guides not finding the job, we are trying to convince the government to halt more training and production of guides for a certain time.
- What are the plans for the coming months?
We are, at the moment, focused on vaccinating our guides to make the tourism industry safe. The first session of the vaccination is already completed with more than a hundred shots being administered and are in the process of vaccinating more guides in the coming weeks.
We are committed to make TURGAN, A BETTER TURGAN. We will make TURGAN more visible and are dedicated to TURGAN for heritage and more. We are committed to promote tourism industry through social activities and networks we have. We are, as earlier mentioned, will conduct more trainings to the guides and work closely with authorities to control illegal activities in tourism.
- Please tell our readers and viewers more about your organization.
TURGAN is an association of professionals who are trained and licensed by the government to serve the tourists coming into Nepal. TURGAN works for the benefit of the member guides, determine the remuneration with other concerned organizations, work for upgrading the quality of tour guides and contributing to Nepalese tourism.