Nepal and COVID 19
In the same token, Nepal, being the underdeveloped country, has less clue and preparation to deal with COVID 19 pandemic in the aspects of the medical sector or the entire economy. COVID 2019 emerged in Dec 2019 but Nepal got hit by its first wave in March 2020. Seeing the widespread of coronavirus throughout the globe, Nepal Government implemented a strict nationwide lockdown from 24 March till 15 June. Then, the Nepal Government eased the lockdown and lockdown rules to cope with degrading economic activities. Movement of a private vehicle is permitted according to the odd-even final digit on license plates matching the final digit of the Nepali Calendar date. However, the Government has requested to avoid the gathering and only come out for the essential activities. Organizations are opened by adopting essential precautions and social distancing. The local businesses and activities are slowly being normal with updated normality of social distance, masks, gloves, and sanitization.
Due to COVID 19, the rising need for social distancing and restriction on traveling leads to the crisis of the travel and tourism industry. Currently, human doubts on traveling which leave the travel and tourism industry a challenge of coping with coronavirus along with scared human mindset towards traveling and meeting new people. Likewise, Nepal struggles harder for its economic development when the travel and tourism industry is the major contributor to GDP. The suspension of Arrival Visa and Domestic and International flight till 5 July 2020 (maybe extended) creates a direct restriction on traveling and the downfall of Nepal’s tourism industry. The Nepal Government also calls off the “Visit Nepal Year 2020”, national campaign, which aimed at welcoming 2 million tourists in 2020. Further, the assumption of around 1 lakh job loss is predicted due to COVID 19 in the Nepal tourism industry as well as effect 1 million lives which are directly and indirectly dependent on the foreign traveler, mountaineering, trekking and touring in Nepal. The booking for an expedition of Mount Everest and other higher peak of the world has been canceled along with the booking for numbers of trekking, touring and accommodation. Some of the players of the tourism industry are extending their support towards the manpower of the tourism industry as well as the travelers stranded in Nepal. The owners of tour and trek operators are supplying possible support in the form of finance or foods to its employees (guides, porters). Correspondingly, some restaurants and hotels are offering free or discounted food and accommodation to the travelers stranded. Despite lockdown, Nepal Tourism Board, Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation in coordination with Embassies in Nepal arranged fixed schedule flights to different countries for the safe landing of tourists at their homeland. Nepal Tourism Industry made sure that none of the tourists face any difficulties due to the lockdown implemented by Nepal Government as for Nepal “ Atithi Devo Bhava”, Guests are Gods, and one should not leave any stone unturned to serve them.
Current Situation of Nepal and Kathmandu valley
Addressing the current situation of capital, Kathmandu valley is sound. As spring begins in Nepal, nature is grooming at its fullest. The sideways of roads are decorated by blooming flowers and leaves. It feels Kathmandu time-traveled to 20 years back when population, crowd, and pollution was less and fresh environment used to outweigh them. The flow of humans and its moving machine is less in the city whereas chirping birds are flying more. The honk and beep have dissolved in the environment by letting the fresh air to make some noise. Catching up the opportunity of less movement, roads are being repaired and pitched black. Even so, Kathmandu valley long for the normality it used to have; being crowded, traffic-jammed, beeped, honked, and dusted. Though most of us have prayed each day to have fresh air and no traffic jam in Kathmandu, now we wish for a usual day with not so chilly breeze, mask to protect from dust not from the virus and sweating up during the sunny day at traffic jam and enjoying the spring blossom flowers garnished by dust and dirt at the sideways. Mainly the locals and business operators around Thamel, Basantapur, Bhaktapur, Patan, Bouddha, Swayambhu, and like tourist sites seek the foreign faces roaming and touring in the street of Kathmandu adoring the smiling Namaste! Nepali. Even though Kathmandu is full of beans, there is a lack of foreign guests to appreciate, cherish, and enjoy the heart pleasing view of nook and corner of Kathmandu. Now, the busiest Durbar Square and World heritage sites are the most freed one in the absence of human laughter, a shutter of cameras, curious eyes, praying hands, chit-chat of travelers, and resting lovers in the corner of sites. Not just the capital city, Kathmandu, is going through the longing of travelers, but the other touristic cities like Pokhara, Chitwan is also passing the phase of emptiness due to the presence of COVID 19 in the world. The tranquil trekking route which used to echo on the footsteps of trekkers, the reaction of trekkers on view, service of guide, and long breathe of porters, is filled with emptiness. Equally, the mountains are unclimbed. The beauty of Nepal would not meet up its purpose until and unless it pleases the travelers and spread the smiling Namaste.
Hopefully, we may cope with COVID 19 so well that COVID 19 becomes a history that never repeats or at least we be encouraged much that we fear less with COVID 19. Certainly, COVID 19 is bringing reformation in traveling style; patterns, and travel hygiene which would not discourage travelers to travel rather strengthen the passion to explore the communities, societies, countries, and the entire world.
Ultimately, Nepal Tourism Industry, its players, and stakeholders need to incorporate the changes in traveling style due to COVID 19. The preferences, priorities, and precautions of travelers would be relative to the preventive measures of COVID 19. Correspondingly, Nepal Government needs to adopt as well as formulate the policies, strategies and implement them to upgrade the degrading economy particularly when the tourism industry is the source of income for many Nepalese and the key sector for the GDP of Nepal. To revive the Nepal Tourism Industry, we all; Private, Non-Government, and Government Sectors have to work precisely for post-COVID 19 travel with the prime objective of safety and sanitation. At the earliest, Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu has been totally transformed by incorporating the social distancing need. There has no formal announcement of reformed policies and plans for Nepal Tourism, yet we believe the backstage work and research are continuously going on for the reviving Tourism Industry.
4 Steps of Preparations
Initially, we, Nepal Adventure Team, are planning on the post-COVID 19 travel experiences in Nepal. The plans for post-COVID 19 travel services have been inspired by the document: 4 PillarsRelaunch plan formulated by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Spain which has been published on the website of UNWTO (UN World Tourism Organization). Nepal Adventure Team is working on the basis of these 4 Pillars to operate post-COVID travel and trek service in Nepal:
There is a famous quote related to health: “Health is Wealth.” And the current context has proven it so well. The world took a pause for health. So, as we operate after encountering COVID 19, we make sure to reduce the adverse impact on health. As a proactive measure, we plan to check the symptoms and health condition of our entire off-field as well as on-field employees (customer service department, guides, porters, cook). Additionally, we choose to work with companies/hotels/restaurants as partners and colleagues who ensure to adopt the preventive and precautionary measures just the way we do. The travel history, health condition, and symptoms of all the customers would be evaluated before beginning any journey. On the other hand, a reactive measure includes the rescue from any places and safe landing to the hospital equipped with sufficient facilities to meet up the health crisis of an individual. We process to minimize the danger and impact of acute public health events that endanger people’s health across communities, societies, and countries.
Despite no business at all throughout the Spring season and probably for the later seasons too, we are committed to supporting our Nepal Adventure Team members either financially or emotionally. This is the human crisis against the virus where we need to be mentally as well as physically healthy. We expect the healthiness to be spread around, not just for our team, country but for all the travelers and respective humans around the world. We believe to share possible support to every living being at this crucial period.
Database of Travelers
One of the necessary precautions to deal with COVID 19 is to maintain an updated database of all the travelers. This database must include the detailed basic information of traveler (name, nationalities, contact address/number, emergency contact number, insurance, and like) along with travel history, health condition, and health history. The database would be useful at the time of possible accidents or illnesses. And supply ease to trace the contacts if necessary.
As mentioned earlier, Safety is the primary concern. After the encounter of COVID 19, the tourism operators seek for the destinations that are safe and healthy or tend to transform the destinations into the safe one. Destinations must incorporate the norms of social distancing, less crowded, equipped with at least simple hygienic materials (sanitizer, mask, handwash). Consequently, these things would be the basic requirement of travelers. Identically, Nepal owns the trek routes which are far from the city chaos and the crowd. On the other hand, Nepal actively needs to spread the awareness of COVID 19 precautionary measures in the rural areas and the steps to deal with COVID 19 such that there is less fear in rural areas. In addition, the health sector of these trekking routes should be upgraded to flourish tourism during the post COVID period.
4 Elements of Cohesiveness
Furthermore, here occurs the transition period wherefrom all the community to the country to global level need to balance the policies and practices between the before and after COVID 19 situation. The transition period demands for:
- Cooperation and Coordination
- Awareness (Awareness to mitigate any health emergency)
- Energy ( Strong willpower and Energy is necessary to face and overcome the adverse condition due to COVID 19 )
- Fund ( Fund is the basis for the improvement and development of infrastructure and resources to deal with COVID 19)
- Above mentioned points, not just uplift the tourism sector but also lead to a healthy traveling world. It is time to showcase the synergy of all the stakeholders.
Besides, Nepal Adventure Team believes in the change of traveling style and incorporating the resources to execute the new style of travel. Nepal Adventure Team is here to reinforce the accomplishment of travelers either as solo or with family for private tours and short tours. With the hope of mitigating COVID 19’s adverse effect, we all look forward to Nepal’s appreciators and travelers visiting Nepal being safe and healthy. Meanwhile, please stay safe, healthy, and calm.