REPORTERS CLUB EVENT: “We are prepared and most of our work related to the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign is on the verge of completion” stated Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Kumar Bhattarai speaking at a press interaction program organized at the Reporters Club last Friday.
President of the Reporters Club and senior journalist Rishi Dhamala began the program by asking the Minister to shed light on the recent activities of the ministry and also regarding the upcoming tourism year Visit Nepal 2020.
Yogesh Bhattarai is seen as a leader that is well respected with a popular image within the youth of the country. Dhamala referred to him as “Lokpriya neta” (Leader dear to and cherished by the people). Bhattarai is also a formidable name among the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) who is at the helm and shoulders responsibility for the party’s future.
VISIT NEPAL 2020
Minister Bhattarai in the program highlighted the work of his government toward making the VISIT NEPAL 2020 year successful and profound which will go in history as one of the biggest events. “We have inspected, prepared budgets, and apportioned funds to various departments that will make the year 2020 a tourist year for Nepal.
I do understand that this ministry was without a proper direction before stepping in, and with a lack of leadership, the government had to bear losses. I have tried my level best over the past several months after taking charge to correct and effectively manage the entire work in a planned manner”.
“Our budget that was remaining was around 200 million Nepalese rupees (NRs) but that would not have been sufficient for us to run programs. Advertising, publicity, and campaigning are expensive processes, and to be self-sufficient we have requested and made a budget of 600 million NRs”.
Minister Bhattarai emphasized closely working with all the various departments under his Ministry. The Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), airport authority, cultural boards, and bureaucracy. “We are planning a huge event for the 1st of January 2020 that will celebrate and officially begin Visit Nepal 2020.
I have written to several heads of states, tourism ministers, and this program will be simultaneously celebrated in all 7 provinces of the country. There will be over 40 state ministers participating and this event will be organized to promote Nepal as one of the best tourist destinations in the world.
Similarly, we are also in the process of getting various international artists, celebrities, sportsperson, and civil society members that will work to promote Nepal and its tourism year of 2020”.
“I have also spoken to our embassies that are stationed abroad. They will be conducting programs and promoting ‘Visit Nepal 2020’. Tourist conclaves, programs representing Nepal will be showcased and organized in Washington DC, Beijing, and New Delhi”.
“We are now in a new era where Nepal can move forward with tourism, development and economic diplomacy which is an added advantage for us. It will provide a new image for the nation, and our role will also be to increase investments for our country. To achieve this goal I have been coordinating and instructing our ambassadors, the Non-resident Nepali Association (NRNA) and various other organizations that will help in promoting 2020 as a major tourist year for the country”.
Minister Bhattarai said “we are also in the process of identifying and developing newer areas for tourist attraction. Our focus has been on getting maximum tourists and providing them with various incentives for their travel, some areas are virgin and unexplored in the country, these places too are being studied for their development as major attraction sites”.
(Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Kumar Bhattarai)
SECOND INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
“Nepal has had only one international airport in its entire history, which is going to change. We have completed 90% of the work for the Gautam Buddha International airport, and we are hopeful of its inauguration and operation by March 2020. That will not only reduce traffic, but it will also enhance tourism in the region. All necessary works have been completed regarding infrastructure and logistical upgrades. The only part is now the set-up, electrification, immigration services, and final phase work that will be required to make the second international airport functioning”.
“We are also in the process of increasing air networks and introduce more airlines to come and work in Nepal. That will not only add to the tourism of the country but it will also facilitate and encourage people to work in Nepal. Gautam Buddha International Airport will be a smart airport in line with the changing time and technology for superior comfort. We are formalizing and initiating the process for its operation monitoring and inspecting work each day. The final phases of the work for the airport are setting up immigration desks, security, and other facilities within the airport. These things are happening at a pace and within the time frame and we hope that the second international airport in Nepal will bring in the guaranteed desired results”.
NATIONAL CARRIER AND CURRENT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
“The current scenario of the only international airport in the country is being used to its maximum capacity. You are well aware of the problems that it faces for parking spaces. Flights ready to land are on hold which increases the costs. Parking spaces for aircraft are an additional problem. We are continuously working for its upkeep. We have rehabilitated the runway and the taxiway. Getting this airport in order as a boutique airport is now our priority”.
“There are several limitations and constraints with our current international airport. One of them and the most important is space. We do not have that required space to develop any further. The land is limited and it is as of now optimally utilized. We are exploring new opportunities for the airport in Nijgad to ease traffic. There have been many rumors spread regarding felling trees for the Nijgadh airport. I request media personnel to bring out the facts. The fact is 2.5 million trees do not exist in that area, it is impossible, yes we may have to cut down trees to acquire land, but we are also looking for sustainable alternatives. I can assure you that we have monitored and inspected the area along with various government ministry officials and civil officers. It is bogus talk to state that 2.5 million trees will be felled. Let our environmentalists have a dialogue with us and we are open to ideas and discussion. In 5 years we hope you can fly from Nijgadh to the United States”.
“Our national carrier the Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) is not performing well as other private airlines do. I have requested the officials and the heads there to boost their performance and show concrete results. It has to be treated as a profit-making enterprise and cannot depend on taking money from the government. The corporation is overstaffed and I know there are workers there who bask in the sun and receive their salary. I will put a stop to this. Several other steps are being taken to make the NAC into a profit-making enterprise, buying newer aircraft, and providing service to remote parts of the Nation. It is the responsibility of being a part of the government to facilitate the travel of Nepalese people all over the country”.
“We have also cut down on giving free airfare to members of the board and the people in NAC unless it is for work purpose. Previously many have traveled without paying and this has now been stopped. Another area where the NAC is losing money is paying enormous credits for the airplanes that have been grounded. All possible steps are being taken to make the NAC a profit-making company while ensuring that it provides quality service”.
“We can explore destinations that are well within our reach with a flight time distance of up to 3 hours. In the south, there are over a billion people the same number is present in the north. We can also target places like Bangladesh and Pakistan that have eager travelers wanting to visit Nepal. Every possibility and channel will be explored in taking the corporation forward toward generating profits”.
WORK OF THE NCP LED GOVERNMENT
“People are constantly criticizing the government which I find is unnecessary and creating an illusion away from the truth. This government has decreased the price of fuel, it has worked for the development of 4 different expressways. A fast track road is being built from Kathmandu to the Terai regions”.
“Under our government, we have been able to get a pipeline that delivers fuel directly which is a first of its kind. Our government has taken big strides in hydropower. Nepal is now close to being load-shedding free. Roads and connectivity agreements have been signed with China. Tunnels have been dug for further connectivity and ease. This is all taking place and the people turn a blind eye and resort to blaming and falderal talks. This is not counterproductive”.
“Please do not provide false information, if you have any problems let us know, we are open for discussions. Work alongside and see the country prosper, we are making strides in development, and the future of Nepal is secure and on-road to becoming one of the greatest travel destinations of the world”.