Analysis

Tourism: Nepal’s smart public diplomacy

Sangita Bhandari

 

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Tourism has a natural patent to soft power and public diplomacy of Nepal with eight of the 10 highest mountains of the world present in the country itself. Tourism should be the means for people-to-people contact within the region and around the globe for country’s flourishing of public diplomacy. It is the best path to enhance and improve peace, friendship and co-operation among nations, economic growth and convergence of the globe.

Around 1-2 billion of world population at present is in the journey of travelling revolution which indicates a clear picture for Nepal to draw its image in global tourist market that ultimately boosts public diplomacy of the nation. By leaving impact on foreign visitors, public diplomacy can transform the nation’s image in international relations.

How are public diplomacy and tourism interrelated? The practice of public diplomacy is expanding with wide range of sectors including tourism that is no longer solely under control of diplomats and public relations officers. In contemporary era, nations are utilising commercial and technological communication across the globe to practice vigorous public diplomacy through tourism.

Public diplomacy and tourism are directly interlinked with each other as both influence people’s opinions and attitudes. Public diplomacy influences people and organizations’ perception abroad in a positive way acting to instrumentalise soft power. The country’s reputation is one important source of power that can be gained through tourism development and well-organised public diplomacy. As the nature of the new public diplomacy shifts and actions of participants are reconceptualised, Shaun Riordan refers it as the ‘diplomacy of post-modern states’. Pressure grows to develop new and innovative methods of engaging in public diplomacy. Even powers previously considered niche diplomacy the preserve of the small states may come to view facilitation as a useful form of public diplomacy.

There will be a number of factors to influence the development of public diplomacy but two factors are likely to impact on the future of public diplomacy of Nepal. First, whether public diplomacy is conducted through bilateral or multilateral approach and second whether the purpose of public diplomacy to change impression of the nation through target audience and programme is successful with resource mobility and dispersal.

The “country’s image” is vital for developing country like Nepal to gain modern and creative image through right application of tourism industry. To understand the increasingly important role of tourism, a nation needs to consider that tourism and its varied tools has become an increasingly important factor for the economy and for future prosperity and development. Today, tourism has become the major part of economies in both developed and developing economies to portray nation’s level of development and unique natural and cultural heritage.

Nepal has enough potentiality for improvement and the tourism sector can be divided among the rich Nepali culture, spiritual environment, rural villages, beautiful cities, rich wildlife and shining mountains.

Tourism in Nepal occupies 3 percent of the total contribution to the country’s GDP which means that there is the need of winning the hearts of visitors who would be the powerful tools to publicise the country abroad. Different campaigns are organised with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, the Non Resident Nepali Association (NRNA) and organisations active in the tourism sector to attract more tourists in the country. Around 800 thousand tourists visited Nepal in 2016 and campaigns are initiated with the objective of bringing 1.6 million tourists into the country until 2018 like Namaste Campaign. It’s a drive to promote tourism in the country at the international level under the slogan – ‘Atithi Devo Bhawah’ or guests are gods. Nepal is consistently featured in the lists of the most popular travel destinations in the world and it is the right hour to utilise its tourism potential for national development. After the April 2015 earthquake, international travel guides and newspapers contributed to regain the tourists’ attraction by highlighting Nepal’s nature and heritage attractions.

Nepal has enough potentiality for improvement and the tourism sector can be divided among the rich Nepali culture, spiritual environment, rural villages, beautiful cities, rich wildlife and shining mountains which must make further headway in its process of globalisation and in its own Nepali values so as to offer the world well-founded reason and emotions through tourism. Tourism is the largest industry with largest source of foreign exchange and revenue in Nepal with the notion of friendliness to international community.

Hindu and Buddhist heritage of the country can attract tourists from the Asian giants—India and China—and can also add a layer of good public diplomacy. In 2027, the jobs in tourism industry are expected to reach 1,325,000 according to the Nepal Tourism Board data. So, tourism in Nepal is considered as a backbone for the Nepali economy, expansion of Nepali image and the path best suited to fight against landlocked feature of the nation.

The country need to remain strong in this endeavour from both governmental and private sectors. The South Asian region as a whole needs to work collaboratively to achieve foreign policy and domestic objective through good impact on foreign public perception. It’s the peak time to fully understand the importance of tourism and to strengthen regional integration to gain foreign investment and prosper the tourism sector with joint collaboration.

Tourism

Two factors need to be analysed: the first factor is the present condition of tourism industry and second is the ways to uplift tourism for achievement of better public diplomacy. Tourism and promotion of public diplomacy approach cannot be implemented by the Foreign Ministry alone; it requires sustainable communication strategies well-coordinated with other ministries, national level organisations and cultural institutes as well as business and multinational organisations.

The network of diasporas and joint action makes a deeper impact and to a larger extent public-private partnership can also play decisive tool in public diplomacy and tourism of Nepali community. Embassies and consulate generals are very important in achieving the long term and short term tourism goal for nation’s economic growth and strong public diplomacy. Major themes for promoting tourism are indispensable through the best network of latest information and communication technology.

While the approach each country takes to achieve public diplomacy goal may be different, Jan Melissen’s observation about the future of Public Diplomacy will remain valid: “The new public diplomacy moves away from-to put it crudely-peddling information to foreigners and keeping the foreign press at bay, towards engaging with foreign audiences’.

As the nation has moved towards federal structure, the country will surely confront obstacles to gain equitable development of tourism and public diplomacy in all seven provinces. The national government has demonstrated a willingness to change the country’s image domestically and abroad with its public diplomacy and policy efforts visible in the Constitution.

Nepal’s attraction in tourist sector is obviously diverse which accounts for its noticeable fragmentation. There is a need for the tourism sector to become more organised and have unity, so it can have greater influence on the government policy-making process and enhance the country’s public diplomacy to new heights. Public diplomacy in relation to tourism acts as a catalyst to national branding and a stepping stone to shape country’s public image. Tourism can be the best path to practice public diplomacy for Nepal.

The writer is currently pursuing Masters in International Relations and Diplomacy, Tribhuvan University.

Published on 5 April 2018

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