The Dynamics Of Domestic Tourism
These days walls of social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instragram are flooded with images of people conquering already established and emerging tourist destinations like Rara lake, Mardi Himal, Gosaikunda, Kalinchowk, Annapurna Base Camp (ABC), Tilicho lake, Jomsom-Muktinath, Poon hill, Lumbini, Swargadwari, Sauraha, Ilam and many more, as if it is a season of traveling and exploring places inside Nepal. This shows increasing trend among Nepali citizens, especially youth, for the promotion of internal tourism. Decision for travelling, in this context, is basically an economic one. Also, internal tourism possesses a huge potentiality to stimulate and strengthen local economies of Nepal. The objective of this article is to discuss the rationale for emerging trend of internal tourism in Nepal, and its impacts on the economy and society.
Nepal is rich in natural beauty, geographical diversity, biodiversity, localised cultures and cultural heritages. These resources are scattered all over Nepal from north to south and east to west. So, there was a huge prospect for internal tourism in Nepal. However, it remained unexplored for many years. It was limited only to pilgrimage and the popular pilgrimage destinations for Nepali were Pashupatinath, Muktinath and Gosaikunda. Even tourism was understood and viewed in the narrow sense of external tourism only. We never considered ourselves eligible for internal tourism.
Now things have changed. Internal tourism is gradually taking momentum in Nepal. How was it possible? What factors are playing their role behind this phenomenon? The foremost rationale for increasing inclination to internal tourism in Nepal is that: nowadays the city dwellers of Nepal can easily afford for two to three days visit or a weeklong trip. The purchasing power of urban people in Nepal has risen sufficiently in the recent past. So, these groups of people are considering visiting new places as an option to enhance their economic welfare. Also, there is no fear of insecurity in Nepal after the peace process. Partly this travelling culture has been adopted from foreigners travelling Nepal as well.
Internal tourism has multiple positive impacts both on the local and national economy. Firstly, internal tourism strengthens local economies. Locally produced goods and services are sold to internal tourists. Locally available resources and skills are mobilised to build tourist infrastructures and to facilitate tourists. It also provides employment opportunities directly and indirectly to local people as owner of hotel, restaurant and home stay, travel guide, cook, waiter and many more. Secondly, economy of some tourist areas and regions might be growing as a total tourism-led economy. Economy of Pokhara region, Namche Bazaar, Mustang, Sauraha, Bandipur, Nagarkot, for instance, at present are led by tourism to a large extent. Overall economic activities around these places have been stimulated by the tourism flourished there. Also, internal tourism increases economic activities and transactions around the area making economy of the region more dynamic.
Thirdly, economic unification of Nepal has not taken place in the full-fledge manner yet. Still our local, and even some regional, markets and products are not integrated into the national economy. Apple from Jumla, for instance, does not reach the market of Kathmandu and Pokhara when the same from Himanchal and Kasmir are sold daily in those markets. So the more the internal tourism flourishes, different markets within the nation get more well articulated and come more closer to each other through the exchange of tourism based services and goods. Finally, internal tourism also plays a role in redistribution of income.
The general trend in Nepal is that income and wealth is being concentrated in some handful number of big cities like Kathmandu, Pokhara, Biratnagar and Dhangadhi. As the core population going for internal tourism is basically the city dwellers, they spend money in rural villages and local markets, thus, causing redistribution of income in favour of village dwellers and those residing in small cities.
Besides an impact in the economy, internal tourism is also influencing our socio-cultural aspects. When people of east visits the west, people of south visits the north, and people of one caste interacts with people of other caste; it enhances and deepens people’s understanding about diverse Nepali societies. This certainly helps tighten our bond of being Nepali and to maintain perfect social harmony in the nation. Also, internal tourism connects people and makes interaction between people of different cultures possible. Moreover, internal tourism has evolved as a popular youth culture in Nepal. It is good thing when youth are grown by traveling to different places. It makes the future generation of a nation more open minded, liberal and innovative which is very good for the healthy growth of both the individual and nation at large. So, internal tourism adds positive social and cultural values for the nation as well.
Although the trend of internal tourism is taking momentum, the government of Nepal has yet to take an institutional initiative to promote it. As discussed earlier, internal tourism is good both for the economy and the society. So, it is wise for the government to do some policy exercise to establish internal tourism institutionally in Nepal as a productive way of increasing internal consumption of domestically produced tourism based services and goods.