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One of the core targets of Visit Nepal 2020 campaign is to establish ‘Nepal’ as a destination brand among travellers worldwide. Dibesh Dangol of B360 talked with various tourism stakeholders and experts to learn their views on the ongoing efforts and possibilities of achieving this target.

Anil Banskota
Client Services Director, Wunderman Thompson Nepal

I feel that Nepal is being undersold and the tourism stakeholders haven’t done justice to what Nepal truly offers. Nepal is being branded and promoted in the international market either as a country of Mt. Everest or the birth country of Lord Buddha. Nepal’s promotion and branding should be based on the humanity, out-right friendliness and hospitality of Nepalis and every Nepalis should be considered as brand ambassador of Nepal rather than just targeting influencers and celebrities to promote Nepal. Everyone who is passionate about promoting Nepal and can provide that local Nepali touch should be used as brand ambassador and content based on them should be made and promoted.

I see many problems in terms of current tourism branding and promotion of Nepal by tourism stakeholders, NTB and the Ministry. Though they have been running various national and international campaigns, as a local I haven’t seen proper outcomes coming out of those campaigns mainly because those campaigns were done without proper planning and concepts. Having said this, efforts done by them can be seen and they have been working hard than the past tourism year campaigns. I think it’s time for Nepal to also focus on religious tour packages and it should be segregated and promoted. Also, why are we branding, promoting and selling Nepal as a cheap destination? We should be overselling Nepal and promoting it as a flexible destination suiting everyone’s budget.

Kedar Bahadur Adhikari
Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation

Nepal is in need of new type of branding and the new brand identity logo of VNY 2020 sums up what the branding should be like i.e. promoting the culture of Nepal and not just limiting Nepal to mountain tourism. I feel the brand identity logo is simple and elegant yet very flexible. It can be used beyond VNY 2020 tourism year campaign to represent Nepal and tourism in Nepal. The branding and promotion of Nepal tourism should be done in such a way that tourists or travellers would have Nepal in their bucket list and would want to experience the diverse cultures of Nepal.
The Government along with the Ministry and other tourism stakeholders have already moved towards branding and promoting Nepal as such through multiple channels domestic and internationally which is a delight to see. Nepal is truly a country full of ‘Lifetime Experiences’ and we Nepalis should be proudly promoting our country.

Shiva Dhakal
Managing Director, Royal Mountain Travel

Globally, Nepal is being viewed and branded as a destination for adventure and adventure sports tourism only. Because of such perception, only niche markets of tourists can be targeted and only such tourists are visiting Nepal currently.

The new way of branding and promoting Nepal should be based on cultural tourism. We, the tourism stakeholders, should be promoting the diverse cultures of Nepal. Royal Mountain Travel has been doing so with our guests. For example, we just don’t promote Chitwan as a wildlife destination. We also provide cultural experiences to our guests by taking them to the Tharu villages and immersing them in Tharu culture. This way, even if the tourists don’t get to experience the wildlife offerings of Chitwan due to different circumstances, they will not be leaving empty-handed and disappointed because they would have experience the true essence of Chitwan i.e. the Tharu culture.

Yogendra Man Sakya
Chairman, Ace Hotels

Nepal has been branded worldwide as a country with two things: nature and adventure. Though the branding and promotion of Nepal has always been concentrated on these two things, proper infrastructure hasn’t been completely developed. We, the tourism stakeholders, advocated and pressured the government to develop the infrastructures like airports, road connections, etc and our voices regarding such has been heard to some extent and development of infrastructures has been happening.

Before, tourism promotion was done through word of mouth, international fairs, B2B, inviting international media and tour operators, etc. Majority of Nepali tourism stakeholders are still doing the same. They should be following the current trend and take the help of technology and digital marketing. I think through that they can reach out to more people at a very nominal rate.

VNY 2020 slogan is ‘Lifetime Experiences’ and they have been giving focus on promoting cultural tourism along with nature and adventure tourism which is a great idea to focus upon. Visit Nepal 1998 was focused on putting Nepal tourism on a global map and to show the importance and potential of Nepali tourism industry to the domestic market. VNY 2011 was done to show that Nepal is no more politically unstable and is safe to visit which is why our slogan was ‘Together for Tourism’. In 2011, rather than promoting in the usual US and Europe markets, we focused our marketing strategies on neighbouring countries, India and China. After 2011, Nepal has been inbounding more than 800,000 tourists every year in which majority are from India and China.

VNY 2020 campaign planning has gone smoothly with no such negative issues to tackle with. The government is stable and peaceful which has contributed a lot to the smoothness of the campaign planning. I think the focus of our tourism stakeholders including the Ministry, NTB and VNY Secretariat should be on what can we give to the tourists rather than what we want or can take from tourists. Tourism industry is being defined as a milking cow business. The 2020 tourism campaign should be focused on tourists and the slogan ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’. The campaign and tourism of our country should be factual and safety oriented and it is important to give factual briefing to the tourists.

Raju Man Dangol
Vice President, Thamel Tourism Development Council

The current branding of Nepal via VNY 2020 campaign has been concentrated on cultural tourism with the slogan ‘Lifetime Experiences’ which I think is innovative and the best way to brand and promote Nepal because ours is a country with diverse cultures. Along with these, we constantly need to find new, innovative and other ways to promote Nepal.
I think the target of welcoming two million tourists to Nepal is bold but achievable. The main issue is that whatever branding and promotion NTB and VNY Secretariat have been doing, a lot of things are being done in conventional ways like posters and pamphlets which are costly and don’t ensure the right outcome. I think they should use digital and influencer marketing techniques to promote Nepal. Creating videos regarding various innovative contents related to the culture of Nepal is one way, or they can invite popular travel vloggers, bloggers or journalists to film or write about their experiences in Nepal. This way, realistic information of Nepal can be communicated to the world, we can know the result, and get more benefit with less effort.

Another issue is the infrastructure. The current and only international airport of Nepal, TIA, can cater to just 1.1 million tourists in a year. As our main focus has been attracting tourists from India and China, I think the border roadways would play an important role as well. So, packages and plans regarding such tourists should be planned by tourism stakeholders and recorded in the overall data.

Ranjit Acharya
CEO, Prisma Advertising

Nepal has a very unique brand value. Though we have amazing diversity, natural beauty and age old heritages as our products, yet our people are the most recalled by our visitors. We the people are the main USP of Nepal brand and we must garner this fact. Nepal shouldn’t sell its products to the tourism world; in fact we should promote experiences in Nepal.

By the year 2022, new millennials will occupy 68% of the spending population and they do not buy products or spend on products; they are and will rather spend only on gaining experiences.

The tourism industry in Nepal will have to now start thinking of providing unique experiential journey to their guests. We do have such scope too. Rather than selling tour to stupas we will have to create meditational stays; rather than showcasing our heritage sites we will have to involve our guests in Jatras; rather than selling clay pots we have to give them an opportunity to make their own pots with wet clay. These experiences will become life long memories for them and will create much bigger word of mouth for us. We must keep up with the culture of our Namaste greeting and the smile. Our guests always refer to Nepalis as most simple and smiling people in the world. The Nepal Tourism Board along with entire tourism fraternity must now create experience based products. We must invest in creating such products. We can recreate our age old history in plays and make tourists experience that era through our full costume musical theaters. If we as tourists can spend hundreds of pounds in Europe to watch an opera musical, then why can’t we create such extravagant shows from our history? We will have to create such unique experience based products in all sectors to provide unique experiences to our guests which is not possible in any other part of the world.

Nepal shouldn’t look at quantity; we should always enhance our quality and target quality tourists who will spend massive amount for such unique experiences. We have to create products for religious tourists inside Pashupatinath and Muktinath temples. It’s high time we create unique valuable products for which we can charge 300-500 dollars be it a musical theatre or a Jatra celebration.

Deepak Raj Joshi
Former CEO, Nepal Tourism Board

Nepal is quite popular all over the world but I still think there is a lot of potential and our strengths haven’t been reached out properly in the global market. Nepal has a rigid image as a mountaineering country and it’s not all that Nepal offers. We still have a lot to offer in terms of cultural, religious and other activities.

Through VNY 2020, we have been and are trying to promote and provide unique experiential lifetime value destinations and activities that can reposition and uplift tourism of Nepal.

The VNY 2020 logo is also designed in such a way that our mountaineering and cultural activities both are highlighted. We have been blessed with varieties of destinations, attractions and activities which we all need to endorse to uplift tourism of Nepal.

The work of NTB has been extraordinary and well appreciated by our key tourism stakeholders both nationally and internationally. Few years back, Nepal’s tourism industry and stakeholders relied on seasonal based tourism and tourists. But, since the last 2-3 years that dynamic has changed. We have been promoting other forms of tourism activities during the off-season and consumer promotion has been given higher priority which is bringing a huge shift in terms of the tourism industry in Nepal. Also, there has been 25% percent annual growth rate in Nepali tourism compared to 5% in other countries which is a positive sign.

Binayak Shah
Managing Director, Airport Hotel

Nepal has a 70 year tourism history focused mainly on mountaineering and adventure tourism. Now, the focus has shifted to cultural tourism which is a great sign to show the flexibility of tourism of Nepal. Many international portals and media have described Nepal either for the mountains and adventures or as a cheap destination. Both perceptions need to be changed and Nepal should be showcased as a diverse tourism country which has everything for every type of tourists. Such cannot just be done by relying upon the central government. The local and provincial governments should be partnering with various tourism companies and present ideas that can differentiate Nepali tourism scene from other countries. Also, culinary tourism should be taken as a part of cultural tourism and should be promoted. Certain standards also need to be made for development of culinary tourism which the government should prioritise. I think it would be great if we can get our domestic airlines, which offer international flights, serve Nepali cuisine on their flights.

As for VNY 2020 campaign, I think the campaign has been done hastily without proper planning and implementation of the campaign has also been late. Such campaigns should be kept as a long-term plan by the government rather than announcing such campaign all of a sudden. I think proper plans and policy for private sector is also necessary. But, I applaud the works done by NTB despite such rush.

I still think the airport management need to ensure a clean and efficient airport. For promotion of tourism and VNY 2020 campaign, NTB is still using the conventional way of promotion like campaign posters on a bus or somewhere else. It should be using the medium of digital marketing excessively rather than the conventional way because storytelling is easy and efficient through digital marketing which is what today’s travellers search and watch before travelling anywhere. I think digital marketing would have been cost-effective and efficient way of promotion.

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