Deepak Raj Joshi was appointed as the CEO of Nepal Tourism Board in December 2015. He holds a Postgraduate Degree in Social Science and Business Administration. Joshi was engaged for more than 16 years in the tourism sector and has worked with all levels of tourism professionals of Nepal. Post-2015 earthquake, he effectively guided the Tourism Recovery Committee (TRC) Nepal Secretariat collaborating with the private and public sectors. Excerpts of an interview with Business 360.
What are the steps NTB has been taking for Visit Nepal 2020?
For Visit Nepal 2020, we are trying to promote Nepal in a unique way. Nepal is always positioned as a mountainous country and only for hardcore adventure travellers, but we have much more to offer. Nepal is equally rich in cultural segments as well, which is why for Visit Nepal 2020 more focus is being given towards promoting the cultural heritage and traditions.
New trends are visible in the tourism sector worldwide. Earlier, there used to be fixed itineraries and activities for fixed destinations. But now travellers are looking for flexibility and experiences.Thus, the theme “Visit Nepal 2020: Lifetime Experiences”.
To promote Nepal according to this theme, we have identified market segments: value, volume and emerging markets. NTB is approaching tour and trekking operators to diversify or modify the regular itineraries. Before, tourism in Nepal was limited to a few seasons or months only, but now NTB is also taking approaches and planning to promote Nepal in off-seasons. To make this happen, we are surveying the prospects and developing content from all over Nepal which can be transformed to different tourism products.
How has NTB been promoting Visit Nepal 2020 overseas?
Currently, the promotion works are being done through videos and other mediums. The logo and message of Visit Nepal 2020 have been translated into ten different languages. NTB has also started partnering and jointly promoting Visit Nepal 2020 with major tour companies, airlines, NRN communities and through diplomatic missions. We will be promoting Visit Nepal 2020 in mass media through BBC, CNN, Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet, etc. which have wide viewership and readership. We will also be starting our digital promotion campaigns very soon in many source markets/countries and continuously be boosting content in 2019-2020 on different digital platforms. This year, we are targeting to invite 1000 international media companies, bloggers, tour operators, celebrities to visit Nepal so that they can go back to their respective homelands and spread words about their experiences.
From which countries does Nepal receive most number of tourists? Has special emphasis, plans or packages been designed by NTB or other tourism bodies to attract more tourists from these countries?
India has been our prime tourist source followed by China. Few years back Sri Lanka used to rank third but since last year USA has taken the spot. We are also getting very good number of tourists from Germany, UK, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
More programmes are yet to come because we have a year left for preparation of the campaign. NTB promotes itineraries, plans or packages that are introduced by tour operators which is why we are educating and communicating with our local tour operators and tourism associations to develop innovative packages that will fully entertain the tourists.
Domestic tourists have played a vital role in terms of sustaining the tourism industry in Nepal. Are the approaches and plans also taking domestic tourists into consideration?
The potential of domestic tourists is always huge in any country. Though it is quite a new phenomenon in our country, developed countries or established destinations have always had very sound domestic tourism. Since the last 2-3 years, NTB has been giving high priority to domestic tourists. In mid-2016 (2073 BS), we also announced “Ghumphir Barsa 2073” as a domestic tourism promotion year which NTB promoted enthusiastically. Domestic tourism is very important as it helps to explore new destinations to diversify tourism activities and it is also contributing locally and nationally.
On July 6, 2018, during the 2nd Meeting of the Joint Working Group on Tourism Cooperation between Nepal and India, one of the important aspects discussed were the Ramayan and Buddha Circuits. Since the meeting what plans have both the countries formulated to promote these and will the circuits play an important role in Visit Nepal 2020?
We have allocated certain budget under annual allocation plan from this new fiscal year budget. In the initial phase, we are going to design packages of these circuits after which we will share the information with our tour operators and tourism industry associates because they are the ones who will be selling the packages. In the next phase, we will be inviting media houses to experience the circuits and promote them in their respective media along with providing promotional collaterals.
The circuits are very important initiatives because not only will they be boosting tourism to places like Janakpur and Lumbini in Nepal, but will also have positive effect on surrounding areas. These circuits will also be enhancing the bilateral relations between the countries and will also be an opportunity to attract more tourists to all the connected regions.
For promoting Visit Nepal 2020 what is the video advertising and digital marketing strategy?
We know the value of video advertisements and digital marketing in today’s time. Videos are the most important mode through which messages can be delivered or shared quickly and effectively. Especially in tourism sector, videos play a vital role as we are selling the beauty and activities of the destinations. To promote Nepal in terms of tourism, we will be partnering with an international company called Beautiful Destinations to produce some videos about Nepal and to promote those materials through their networks. Besides, NTB will be producing short videos highlighting different attractions, places and packages. So far, we have already produced 10-12 videos and will continue to do more.
As for the digital marketing, we are digitally promoting not just Visit Nepal 2020 but also tourism opportunities in Nepal.We will be giving our highest priority to digital marketing which is why we have created Nepal Tourism Board YouTube channel and have been continuously showing presence on NTB’s social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Our next step will be to publish and promote the contents that we already have or will be having through these social media platforms.
Kathmandu has been listed in the Top 10 Cities to Travel list by Lonely Planet. But in the description, Lonely Planet has also mentioned the infamous traffic, smog and noise of Kathmandu which might have a negative impact. Is NTB working with other government bodies to mitigate these problems?
The mentioned problems are definitely the biggest concerns for both travellers and people of Kathmandu. I think the kind of conflict and crisis Nepal went through in the past 15-20 years did play a part in the environmental disruptions. But now, we have a majority government and this government is giving high priority for infrastructure development. I think these problems are temporary and they are in the process of being solved. The beauty, warm hospitality and the rich heritages Nepal has are permanent and more emphasis should be given to promoting them.
What is the budget allocated for Visit Nepal 2020 promotion? What is the revenue the country is targeting?
The budget allocated by the Ministry of Tourism is Rs. 10 crores and that by NTB is Rs. 50 lakhs. The budget from NTB will be used to cover the secretariat and operational expenses to promote Visit Nepal 2020.
The total number of tourists we are targeting is two million. Currently, the expense of per tourist per day averages at $50 which we want to increase to $60 for Visit Nepal 2020.
Tourism is an important economy activity and I think tourism is the only alternate which can contribute to rapid development of Nepal. This is very environment-friendly business which is also useful for sustainable development of the country. Tourism in Nepal didn’t fail because of tourists. It is us who aren’t creating new things, not selling our products at high prices. So, firstly, we have to educate people associated with the tourism industry to be innovative and sell their products in a unique manner.
How are you planning to collaborate with provincial governments for the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign?
Basically, NTB’s job is to promote Nepal’s beauty and find ways to bring tourists into the country. We are and will be collaborating with our provincial governments for development of new tourism areas and building the capacity of local stakeholders in the provinces. More importantly, NTB is helping provinces to create their own tourism brands through which they can promote their tourism capabilities both domestically and internationally.
It will not affect the campaign if the country is a federal state. On the positive side, it will be easier as there are more resources and authorities now at the local level which will be of great help. We do have concerns regarding some provinces and locals charging high prices to tourists without upgrading their services which leaves a negative impact on travellers. To erase or minimise this, we are constantly in talks with the local authorities and government bodies.
What kind of collaboration are you seeking from the Ministry and from tourism entrepreneurs to make the campaign a success?
The tourism industry needs to be given a high priority for the development of Nepal. For its growth, we want the government to make fast track policies, whereas from the industry side, new innovative ideas and itineraries should be created along with selling of these tourism products and services at a reasonably higher price. NTB is also associated with Udhyami Seed Camp through which many young entrepreneurs have created innovative ideas. We are joining hands with ideators and seeking ways for collaboration for the campaign.
What has been your contribution to tourism in Nepal which distinguishes your term from that of your predecessors at NTB?
When I joined Nepal Tourism Board at the end of 2015, it was probably the worst moment in the history of the tourism industry. Tourism industry was at such a low point that every stakeholder was demoralised, infrastructure was poor and the instability of the government was a key issue along with the situation of NTB. Despite all of this, during my tenure of three years, I am quite happy that we have been able to double the number of tourist arrivals. In 2017, the number of tourists in Nepal was one million which was a historic number. In 2018, the expected number of tourists is 1.2 million. We have also received recognition from UNWTO which has highlighted Nepal as the third fastest growing country in terms of arrival of tourists. Since the last three years, we are receiving 20% growth rate and I feel proud to see this growth happening in my tenure.