Oxfam supports assessment of earthquake damage along Himalayan trails
“Nepal needs to get tourists back on its trails to reduce poverty and vulnerability. For this we need a strong commitment from government, industry and donors,” said Oxfam in Nepal country director Cecilia Keizer during a workshop on restoring Nepal’s damaged trails and tourist image.
Representatives of public, private and civic organisations discussed strategies for rehabilitation of trekking tourism in the earthquake-affected areas during a national-level meeting on 30 March 2016 in Kathmandu. The meeting on “Getting the tourists back on the trails” was held jointly by the Great Himalaya Trail Nepal Alliance (GHTNA) Oxfam and Nepal Tourism Board.
Assessing the damage
Oxfam in Nepal supported the assessment and calls for the stakeholders to revitalise the trekking industry to support livelihoods. “The tourism sector has substantial linkages that directly benefit the rural economy. Ensuring that tourism picks up in areas that have been hard hit by the earthquake will help communities getting back on their feet,” said country director Cecilia Keizer.
World Travel and Tourism Council data shows that Nepal’s tourism accounts for 4.3% of the national GDP and 3.5% of total employment generating 500.000 direct jobs and 600.000 indirect jobs. The total impact of the earthquake on the tourism sector is more than 8.2 million USD with a revenue loss of 77%.
“Rehabilitation to bring livelihoods back to people and revive the image of Nepal as a tourist destination are top priorities of the Nepal Now campaign and the Nepal Tourism Board that need to be approached with urgency”, Deepak Raj Joshi, CEO of the Nepal Tourism Board, said. Limited livelihood options for communities in the earthquake affected areas feed a cycle of resource degradation and widespread poverty.
No Short Cuts
The workshop discussed different ways to address the damage and promote tourism. Access to soft loans and capacity building through training can help tourism entrepreneurs back on their feet. A targeted branding campaign focusing on social media and tourism ambassadors can help to attract overseas tourists. Most importantly, government policies and support are needed to create the right environment, with a special focus on the issues of safety and signage.
The analysis of GHTNA showed that with the right approach some of the less damaged trails can be rehabilitated by the next peak season (October/November 2016), while other areas will benefit from a longer term recovery plan. Stakeholders at the meeting agreed that a joint effort is needed to achieve this.
Keizer appealed to authorities and donors to get involved in rebuilding a sustainable tourism industry. “The scale of destruction and needed investments are overwhelming. We need a network of committed partners to revitalise tourism.”
Oxfam in Nepal works in seven of the fourteen districts that are worst affected by the earthquake and is looking for innovative ways of restoring livelihoods. The organisation and its local partners provide Cash for Work schemes, focusing on the rebuilding of trails, irrigation channels and community infrastructure. Oxfam supports small farmers with agricultural and livestock input and works with 9000 home based handicraft producers.