An Open Letter from the Members of the Nepal Association of Tour Operators to the Candidates Contesting the Local Body Elections in May 2017.

May 9, 2017

Going by estimates published by the Nepal Tourism Board, one-in-nine Nepalis is employed, directly or indirectly, by the Tourism Industry in Nepal. Considering that the average tourist visits limited areas in Nepal, most particularly Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur, Pokhara, Chitwan, Solu Khumbu, Lamjung, Manang, Lumbinii, Mustang and Kaski, one can safely assume that in those areas the number of the members of the electorate benefiting from tourism would easily be double or triple that number.

However, it is glaringly obvious that issues related to problems faced by those employed in the tourism industry, problems faced equally by locals and tourists alike and those faced silently and stoically by the visiting tourist alone have found no place in your election manifestos.

Businesses, related to tourism or otherwise, daily face the harrowing ordeal of sudden hikes in monument fees, over-crowding, unruly hawkers, beggars, traffic congestion, lack of access to proper water, electricity, sanitation and the like. Those employed in the sector face problems related to personal security, lack of transportation, traffic congestion and the like. Tourists and locals face problems related to access to secure parking facilities, lack of hygienic toilets, sanitation, access to drinking water, open spaces and rest spots. The visiting tourist quietly and stoically has put up with the touts inhabiting tourist spots, unlicensed money changers, beggars, unruly hawkers, lack of toilets, access to drinking water and more for decades.

Yet, only a few of your manifestos even attempts to address those issues which are easily remedied, if you put mind to them. Instead, some of you have been found to be proposing grand designs of metro rail systems, tramways and electric buses among other grandiose projects which will take years, if not decades to design and implement. While those dream projects, if realized, would be welcome by local and tourist alike they will not make up for a complete lack of basic facilities. The members of this Association and indeed, people involved in the tourism industry in 2017 belong to a different and more educated generation than those who last voted in local elections, roughly twenty years ago and will not be fooled by promises of an utopian future lacking basic necessities.

NATO strongly suggests that problems related to the domicile and conduct of businesses, problems faced by tax-paying and law abiding citizenry and visitors who bring much needed employment and foreign currency find a niche in your electoral platforms.

It is perhaps needless to point out that capital can leave your local areas just as easily as it got there, taxpayers can relocate to better, more conducive neighborhoods or in the case of Nepal, seek work in another country and that there are millions of other tourist attractions with better facilities chasing those same visitors and their Dollars, Pounds, Euros, Yuans, Yen, Rupees and the like.

We urge you thus to immediately address those issues that will impact neighborhoods, villages, towns and cities that you propose to serve and the electorate who have so patiently waited to vote for you. That you choose not to address these issues will not make them go away but, in the next few weeks, months and years you will undoubtedly feel their weight at your own peril.

NATO, the umbrella organization representing tour operators, hotels and airlines catering to in-bound tourists stands committed and looks forward to working with you to find a solution to the above problems which will ensure a better future for our industry, our neighborhoods, our employees and our visitors.

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