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How to get out of the trap of being considered a cheap destination – Nepal Tourism 2.0 moving towards Meaningful Tourism

How to get out of the trap of being considered a cheap destination – Nepal Tourism 2.0 moving towards Meaningful Tourism

Dear reader,

In the last few days, your humble editor had the honour to be invited to Kathmandu to conduct a series of capacity building workshops and trainings under the headline “Nepal Tourism 2.0”. As co-trainers our dear friends and colleagues Dr. Jens Thraenhart and Dr. Ali Said Akaak also found their way from Thailand and Oman respectively to the Park Village Resort Hotel, the venue of the event.

The first sessions were dedicated to the restart of Chinese outbound tourism to Nepal. In 2019, almost 170,000 Chinese visited Nepal, albeit mostly in the form of low-price package tours, often staying in the former hippie hotels in Thamel, which were taken over by Chinese investors. For May 2024, the arrival number still stayed under 10,000 per month. This indicated a growth of 9% compared to May 2023, but still fell short of the expectations of the industry.

The audience of about 60 tourism practicioners including tour operators, hotels, airlines, attractions, etc. agreed that the step towards more sophisticated products and services and from quantity to quality were necessary and indeed already happening. It was however also reported, that during discussions with Chinese distribution partners during GITF in Guangzhou and on other occasions it was difficult to convince them that for a better quality of products also higher prices had to be paid.

Nepal has fallen, like many other destinations, in the “25 USD a day destination” trap. It sold itself not as the unique and diverse place to visit it could, but concentrated the efforts on mass-market sightseeing round trips, with very similar itineraries covering mostly Kathmandu, Pokhara and Chitwan. There are other fascinating offers existing, like different forms of adventure travel, retreats to monasteries for detox, and much more. However, only very few of these offers were customised for the Chinese market.

How to get out of this trap? One solution is the development of direct sales or the usage of specialised tour operators who do not only use big numbers of Pax as their main KPI. The trainings, including an Expert Roundtable discussion, certainly pointed in that direction and showed that with the help of organisations like PATA Nepal Chapter and the planned establishment of a National Tourism Research Institute, Nepal can achieve not only arrival numbers beyond the pre-pandemic travel, but can also produce satisfied customers who are offered specialised services, creating new jobs and sources of income around the country.

As always, all best wishes for all readers from Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Georg Arlt and the entire COTRI INTELLIGENCE team!