For a country that is strongly associated as a trekking destination, more efforts are needed to cultivate Nepal's positioning beyond that of mountains and peaks if it is to reach its full tourism potential, said international buyers at last week’s Himalayan Travel Mart (HTM).
During HTM, the industry was given a glimpse into Nepal’s diversity that spans sprawling lowlands, national parks where Bengal tigers and rhinos can be spotted, dense forest and jungle with rare wildlife and vegetation, and more than 60 ethnic groups.
A greater one-horned rhinoceros in Bardia National Park, Nepal
“For us, Nepal is the Himalayas. It is sold as an extension of a trip to India,” Veronica Sarmiento, manager of Spain's Buscame Viajes, told TTG Asia. “Coming here has changed my perception. Nepal is definitely a stand-alone destination but not many know this. It can also be a fantastic spiritual trip.”
P Anand, founder and CEO of Bangalore-based OTA Beyonder Experiences, added until now Nepal remains off his radar, as mountaineering does not appeal to his target market of 30- to 45-year-olds.
He added: “I now realise Nepal is more than climbing Everest. It has lots of rich cultural experiences that appeal to my market. This needs to be promoted much more.”
Tour operators in Nepal are starting to realise the need to diversify products and widen the marketing net, with more safaris and cultural and spiritual tours being created and promoted.
Shiva Dhakal, managing director of Royal Mountain Travel, has spent the last two years developing a network of nine community homestays across Nepal, with another two set to open by this year-end.
He said: “There is much more to Nepal than the mountains – the culture, the people, their daily lives. This is what people want and this is what we have; we need to show this to the world.”