The signing of a Memorandum of Understating (MoU) between Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), the oldest travel industry body in the country, with Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) to promote and enhance bilateral tourism marks an important first step in revival of outbound tourism from India after a long gap of nearly two years, forced due to coronavirus pandemic that had led to border closures all over the world.
The MoU, signed earlier this week, specifically focuses on promoting mutual interests and tourist arrivals through collaboration and a cooperative approach on a reciprocal basis in the years to come.
Jyoti Mayal, president of TAAI, outlines the objectives of the MoU and the place it has in the scheme of overall revival of tourism industry not just in India but across the entire South Asian region.
“The objective is very clear. We want to promote bilateral tourism between both the countries. Nepal is a border country for us and we have a huge border which is common to both the countries. They have developed a lot of border tourism with numerous hotels all along the border and they have lot of activities around the cities which are connecting the borders. So we are looking tourism promotions all over and not just in the main cities of Nepal or the capital Kathmandu so that Indians can travel much more by road or by air,” Mayal tells India Outbound.
Mayal says that engaging with neighbours like Nepal makes a lot of sense in this period when the revival is a bit tricky especially with long-distance destination due to the time of travel as well as the immense difficulties in travelling due to totally unsynchronised travel rules imposed by each country on visiting tourists.
“As it is we cannot travel far due to Covid-19 and then on top of that some countries need 5 RTPCR tests between from the point that the travellers leave their homes to their return. All these have removed the ease of travel and many tourists would be inclined to explore the neighbouring nations at least until global tourism rules are harmonised,’’ says Mayal.
She says that is the reason TAAI decided to reach out to Nepal Tourism Board and sign the MoU. “We need to engage with neighbouring countries the most. Nepal is more like a domestic extension for us, that is why we wanted to have relationship with them and at one time Nepal was huge destination for Indian travellers. We need that growth to come back and what better than a neighbouring country and that’s why we I just keep saying neighbouring countries should reopen with absolutely unified policies for everyone so that the travel between these countries is seamless,” Mayal tells India Outbound in an interview.
Though because of the short distance, similar culture and culinary experiences for many Indians Nepal seems like an obvious extension of a domestic itinerary, Mayal says there are many things that make Nepal a truly international destination. “Though it may hardly sound or look like international travel, but for an Indian going to Nepal is indeed international travel and you have many good things to look at. You can do adventure, you can go hiking. They have lots of entertainment and of course they have casinos as well. So, there are a lot of things that one can go to Nepal for and enjoy. The tourism to Nepal has already begun and there are no restrictions. The only thing is that they have not yet opened the roads and we are trying to have the road connections also reopened, so that the tourism can come back to its full potential,” she adds.