I didn’t want to write about it. I still don’t. But it’s hard to ignore. So here I go... Visit Nepal 2020.Recently, I was in Lisbon, Portugal, home to around 15,000 working Nepalis. Yet every (English speaking) shop-keeper and taxi-driver looked at me quizzically when I talked about Nepal. Where is that, they asked.
In fact one stall-holder thought I was confusing Nepal with Thailand! No need for me to explain to the waiters in the restaurants and cafes as they were mainly Nepali. And right there, an untapped source of VNY2020 ambassadors who are interacting every day with travellers and visitors from around the world! And that is just in one city of one country!
Out of curiosity I Google Visit Lisbon 2020 and find a well-constructed, informative website aimed at me, the visitor. It’s the first site that comes up. Followed by Trip Advisor on Lisbon. I Google Visit Nepal 2020 and the first site that comes up is Virgin Holidays—Tours to Nepal. Okay so I am sitting in the UK as I Google, but the Visit Nepal 2020 official website comes only after a few more private travel company sites. I click on it. First words on the site are ‘We are Visit Nepal 2020’. What does that even mean?
I scroll down to the Latest News section to find an invitation to bid on being able to use the official Visit Nepal flag. I just need to submit my bid and proof of the not insubstantial security amount in a sealed envelope... hold on! Is this site for visitors or for those in the tourism industry? Has no one updated the site or sectioned it off? But far be it for me to question the reasoning of the authorities. So I move on...
Meantime, what is Portugal famous for? If you’re a football fan, you might say Cristiano Ronaldo. If you are not, you might say port wine or pastel de nata (pastries and tarts). You might also know that almost half the world’s cork is harvested in Portugal or that Azulejo tiles, which today still decorate the outside of many buildings, originate back to the time when the Moors ruled. Surfing beaches, Fado music (interestingly a UNESCO World Intangible Cultural Heritage), and the explorer Vasco da Gama (first person to sail Europe to India in 1497: think Goa) are up among the top 10 things Portugal has to offer.
Wonderful as all these things are, I am sure Nepal can do better—I mean, custard tarts as a national treasure? Come on!
What Portugal does have is easy access from Europe, fantastic winter weather, and beaches. Well we can’t suddenly relocate Nepal to the ocean, but we do have stunning scenery and—dare I say it—mountains! Access to Nepal is however difficult and expensive and the welcome, which might be friendly, is not exactly what modern holiday makers expect on arrival.
Enough has already been said about TIA’s facilities and the drive to the hotel so I won’t bring that up again... But let me say, visitors who came to Nepal 20 or 30 years ago accepted the lack of facilities, terrible hygiene and sketchy information. But today we must update our thinking... this is not the 1990s anymore folks.
In the current climate of social media overload, well-travelled Millennials, and more retirees travelling to this part of the world than ever before, no one is going to accept below-par facilities. Regardless of how high the mountains or how wide the smiles.