Ms. Eunji Tae, officer, Asia Pacific, UNWTO
(This interview was taken against the backdrop of three – day Asia Pacific Regional Workshop on the theme “Measuring Tourism for People, Planet and Prosperity,” that kicked off in Kathmandu in collaboration with UNWTO on March 15, 2023. Ms. Eunji Tae ,an expert at the United Nations World Tourism Organization has spoken to The Nepal Weekly on potentials and challenges of Nepal in tourism sector)
The Nepal Weekly: What was the main purpose of this workshop?
Eunji: The main purpose of this workshop is basically to foster capacity building of Nepal in terms of tourist statistics. So first objective is to support Nepal’s effort of capacity building. The second objective is to invite South Asia member states of UNWTO to come to Nepal and participate in this capacity building programme. UNWTO has 9 member states in South Asia, namely, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Iran. There are also big delegations from Thailand and Philippines in this workshop. It is also Nepal has been making effort to improve its statistical system and doing this master programme together with the UNDP in cooperation with UNWTO since 2018. So we thought its a momentum to re-embark, as we are coming to post-Covid era, the project, because that has been hold for some time due to the pandemic.
TNW: What type of technical and financial support UNWTO is providing to Nepal in the promotion of tourism?
Eunji: You know, UNWTO is not a funding agency. So we don’t have financial resource to support one single country. However, this single project was supported by UNWTO and at the same time, financial support is being provided by the government of (South) Korea. Because government of Korea is providing support every year , since 2006, for the activity that the UNWTO is organizing in the member states in the Asia – Pacific. So, half of the budget is provided by Korea through UNWTO. UNWTO has chosen Nepal for this project and using this Asia Pacific activity fund.
TNW: What type of support UNWTO is providing to Nepal for the promotion of tourism sector?
Eunji: UNWTO is the organization not only to provide promotional activity. The bilateral programmes being organized by the UNWTO evolves through mutual discussions. For example, this time we are providing support for capacity building project. Some portion of support for Nepal is being provided for promotion of Nepal as an international destination for this types of conference. Now 12 countries including Nepal from all the Asia and the Pacific region, come for specific objective to attend this conference. We are also visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kathmandu. We know that Nepal is a life time experience destination, its more than mountainous area and we are coming for this types of conference. In this sense, we are helping Nepal to promote Nepal as a destination of conference tourism as well.
TNW: What do you think is the prospect of tourism development for Nepal?
Eunji: In my own personal experience, there are abundant resources both tangible and intangible in Nepal and yet to be explored fully. There must be some reasons such as current internal situation, lack of infrastructure, the social and economic situation in the country because, Nepal is one of the LDC countries, so the benefits of tourism is not fully distributed to the entire country. The portion of the rural community is huge so there are much room to improve. It will not happen in one go, it is a gradual process, it will develop slowly.
TNW: What is your advice to distribute benefits of tourism to grass roots people?
It is easier said than done. We need to help each other, we need to collaborate. We need to collaborate vertically as well as horizontally. Vertically means you work with different sectors like private, public and local community. Horizontal means how many provinces in Nepal has the eight master peaks? Some of the provinces don’t have the resources. So, the provinces have to see that the national growth is my growth. The country has to evolve together. That’s why the role of the central government is very important. The country as a whole should be benefitted from tourism, not a particular province.
TNW: What needs to be done to increase the number of quality tourists visiting Nepal?
As for now Nepal has just become the entry point for tourists. People visit Nepal to go to Mt. Everest, to go to the Everest, not going to Nepal itself. Nepal is only the entry point. We need to change that perception. We are going to Nepal and then to see the Everest, it should be like this. Right now the other way around. How to change that perspective entirely depends upon Nepal.
TNW: How can Nepal develop tourism statistics and how can we utilize for the promotion of tourism?
Eunji: As your Tourism Board CEO Regmi has pointed out very frankly about the data gap that Nepal is experiencing. What he said during his speech is that collecting the data of all international tourists is missing right now. Since land crossing Indian tourists data is missing that is not being reflected in GDP account. GDP is not reflecting the entire tourist data. All the government agencies should understand that right data, accurate data is necessary to introduce policies. The government should also realize that tourism is important for the economy of the country.
TNW: How Nepal can be positioned as an important tourism destination?
Eunji: Now Nepal is doing a lot in the area of tourism statistics. But having a sustainable long term vision, which is not interrupted by change in government or change in administration, is really important. Because, we should understand that human and natural resources dont really change. There should not be drastic change in policies with one government to another. We need to have long term vision and proper allocation of resources. The most important thing right now is to be aware that tourism is really important for countries like Nepal. Nepal has such a rich cultural and natural heritage and the potential is huge.