As I sat sipping on the broth of the Sopa de Lima—one of Yucatan Peninsula’s most native and traditional dishes—observing the swarm of tourists, I noticed something interesting. The tourists seemed to hail from all parts of the world, different ethnicities, and could not think of any particular race that was not present. After all, the 23-km-long Cancun Island is well connected to the main peninsula and attracts mostly Europeans and other nationalities.
What was an unknown fisherman’s village approximately 23 years ago was responsible for generating one-third of Mexico’s tourism revenue at around $30bn in 2019. It’s also well known for various water sports, exquisite hotels and colorful shops. I was enjoying every moment before I realized that my feelings were turning ambivalent.
Being from Nepal, supposedly a major tourist destination, the concerned have all but failed to bring about the changes in its infrastructure and ease of access for the guests that visit from all across the world albeit in smaller numbers if you were to compare with Cancun Island. So what has gone wrong, I ask myself while still enjoying the broth. We are second to none, whether it be in terms of biocultural diversity, with an elevation starting at 60 meters in the plains, popularly known as the Terai region, to 8848 meter-Mount Everest—the highest point on earth.
This results in 35 different forest types and 118 ecosystems. Human adaptations (in terms of changes in appearance, dialects and culture) to the various changes in climate as we travel higher—is a wonder on its own—to be able to interact with diversified and evolved groups of people as we explore the richness and the beauty of the country. A living proof of how humans have evolved according to the terrain and climate of a particular place.
But my curiosity doesn’t end here. Of the 16.8m labor force, we have only a million employed in the tourism sector to facilitate tourism in our country. Can we not make the different forest types and ecosystems more accessible for the guests arriving in our country? Can we not invite more investments in this largest growing sector with still a long way to go? Our civilization is one of the oldest of civilizations as per the Hindu literature and we boast of the four UNESCO world heritage sites—Lumbini, Sagarmatha National Park, seven sites in the Kathmandu Valley collectively listed as one, and Chitwan National Park and yet we promote none.
Why are tourists from across the globe waiting to observe the 88 threatened animal species as designated by IUCN before they truly become extinct? The obvious answer is ‘they don’t know!’ Can we not make the visitors aware that this country has much more to offer than just Mount Everest and Annapurna? We are currently facing what is popularly known as the ‘infrastructure bottleneck’, with the domestic as well as the international airways not properly modernized, and practically no marketing for what we assume to be proud of. If we can pull this off, we do not need to go farther than our neighbors alone, China and India with an approximate population of 2.8bn people when put together. The rest of the world will follow.
Well that was the last of the broth for me—I lost the taste to bureaucracy I guess—time to explore more of the island. Yet the important question that haunts me is not ‘how can we promote tourism?’ but ‘where should we begin?’