By Bhrikuti Niroula
Talking about tourism in Nepal is not a new subject. It has become a national mantra, chanted by everyone. Several public and private institutions, entrepreneurs, experts and professionals are directly and indirectly involved in its promotion and I applaud wholeheartedly for what private sectors have done so far. I am just a very young student of Tourism Management and trying to rationalize my choice of study and seek my future in this country. I have been told by my parents and seniors that tourism used to be a sobriquet of golden-egg-laying-hen. They might be right then, but now, watching staggering government’s ignorance and inefficiency, I am worried and ask myself whether I would able to make a living with dignity in this profession! When I see derelict, dilapidated and crumbling world heritage sites, I see my crumbling future. When I see polluted rivers and lakes, I see my polluted future. Our rusted infrastructures indicate our rusted future. It hurts me when I see tourists passing through garbage-strewn streets covering their nose. It hurts me when I see Nepal loving tourists being discouraged to visit again. It hurts me when I see our unique culture is systematically being encroached by others. It hurts me when our dying cultural and linguistic identities are not institutionally protected. It hurts me when I see our fragile ecosystem is seriously disturbed. It hurts me when our endangered species are vanishing. I wonder shouldn’t it be a government’s paramount concern?
These days, most of the politicians in the helm of affairs are seemingly not inspired by Nepal as it is. They are more comfortable in presenting themselves as ‘branded and imported’ leaders of some sorts. There are no tourists in the world who want to experience how the ghost of Mao, Lenin, Marx, Stalin, Gonzalo, Kim-Il-Sung and Nehru affected our country. We don’t find them at all. We cannot promote what we are not and what we don’t have, but instead we need to promote and explore what Nepal already has. I ask our leaders to stop being ‘Ignorant-In-Chief’ and ‘Entertainment-In-Chief’. Listen to the voice of youth like us! We honestly do not need political breed of unproductive youth. There are already so many politically cloned youth in our country vying to be a political demi-god just like their political parents.
I am not sure how much our leaders know about Nepal in reality! If I may, let me educate them a little bit! They may have a whole lot of experience of seeing and using this country as a political laboratory for their repeatedly outdated failed policies, but they are astonishingly ignorant about the strength of this country. Let me give them some example of countries, which have tremendously advanced their quality tourism with the given resources they have. Bhutan, a member of SAARC countries, has advanced its tourism potentials by protecting and promoting its Buddhist tradition, biological diversity and enforcing and implementing environmental health policies. They are doing great! Costa-Rica, a Latin American country, has enhanced its tourism solely by protecting and promoting its great biological diversity. These two countries are one of the best examples of preserving their natural environment. Another remarkable country which has tremendously benefitted from tourism is the State of Israel, only Jewish country in the world and the birthplace of three major religions including Christianity. Israel attracts millions of Jews and Christians all over the world every year. It is true that Nepal cannot attract as many tourists as Israel does, but we have some sort of similarities, in different way. Though Nepal’s identity of being only Hindu State in the world has been removed at the behest of Western powers, the very land of this country speaks the different truth. Just like Israel is the only Jewish country, where Jesus Christ was born; Nepal is a Hindu country, where Buddha was born. Just like Israel’s land is better off with Synagogues and Churches, Nepal is better off with Hindu/Buddhist Temples and Monasteries, but yet we both respect and protect the minorities. Also, we have a legacy of bravery, which the world knows. Nepal has the privilege of being like Bhutan, Costa Rica and Israel, but it has not been promoted this way. We are blessed with geographical, topographical and demographic diversity with exquisite places, culture and tradition, yet, they are not developed and promoted for domestic and international tourism as they should have been.
Tourism is all about testing the difference. We are a part of one of the biggest civilizations and center point of two major religions of the world. I am sure that Christians, Jews and people of other faith visiting Nepal are not interested in seeing fancy Churches next to Pashupatinath, or Swayambhunath, or in Lumbini, Janakpur, Manang, Mustang, Dolpa, Khumbu etc. They love to see what is already standing there for centuries. The fact of the matter is Hindu/Buddhist temples and monasteries have embellished the lands of Nepal. Nepal is a unique in a sense that Hinduism and Buddhism are intermingled with each other. It is well known but not often talked about Buddhism is that Hindu believes that Buddha is the 9th incarnation of Supreme God Vishnu, whom the western world recognizes as Krishna and Ram. Amidst growing religious terrorism, nowadays, educated people all over the world have realized that Hinduism and Buddhism are the most dynamic, tolerant, inclusive and peaceful religions with resplendent festivals, pageantries, celebrations of the world. Nepal is already blessed with it. If we are able to maintain our most liberal religious identity, promote these religions in proper ways, about one billion Hindus and 500 million Buddhist will certainly think about visiting Nepal one day.
If I may, I also have some suggestions to which I would like to draw our politicians’ attention. Develop school curriculum and make it compulsory in school education about Nepal’s geographical location, its natural, biological, cultural, demographic and linguistic diversities. Educate students on the importance of healthy ecosystem, afforestation, protection of habit and habitat of wild flora and fauna! Educate students on the environmental impact, global warming, climate change, deforestation, consequences of action and inaction! Also, make them aware on the superstitious belief of using animals’ organs/products for nonsensical proposes like traditional medicine, healing and warding off evil spirit etc.! Educate them how all these factors are interrelated with tourism development, especially eco-tourism! Once these young minds are educated, it will bring significant positive changes in the long run.
With this article, I would also like to request our leaders to demonstrate their diligence and willingness to address these issues. More tourists mean more jobs opportunities for youth. More tourists mean more money to feed 1000 lawmakers of 7 States in future. Specially, I would like to request our youth to contribute something, anything so that we and our future generation could live happily in an environmentally civilized and culturally enriched nation with abundance of opportunities. When our future is secured, we will be able to live with dignity in our own country.
(The writer can be reached at email@example.com)