The government revived the Department of Tourism (DoT) in September, 15 years after its dissolution. It has upgraded Tourism Industry Division into Department of Tourism, bringing the tourism ministry´s Tourism Infrastructure Development Project under its ambit. Kriti Bhuju of Republica talked to Tulsi Prasad Gautam, director general of DoT regarding, the department´s plans for the department of tourism industry. Excerpts:
Could you please brief us about the activities of DoT?
DoT is responsible for regulating four different sectors — trekking, expeditions, hotels and restaurants, and adventure tourism activities besides overseeing the Tourism Infrastructure Development Project.
In trekking sector, we are working with the Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology for devising a mechanism to provide weather forecast to trekker in order to minimize weather-related incidents. We are also working to provide training on gathering weather forecasts and safety measures for trekking guides and porters in association with Trekking Agencies´ Association of Nepal (TAAN). We are also doing internal homework for providing proper dress to porters who have to work in treacherous environment. As there is communication problem on many trekking routes, we are holding discussion with telecom operators and requesting them to add towers on popular routes.
To attract more climbing parties, we have reduced mountaineering royalty. The department is always ready to promote adventure related activities. Similarly, we are also working to maintain quality of service in the hotel industry.
Besides, we are also working to control illegal operation and urging tourism related service providers to register with the department.
Even star rated hotels have been found serving low quality food to customers. What will the department do to make sure that the hotels maintain the standard set by the government?
At present, we have only one food inspection officer at our disposal. In coordination with International Finance Cooperation (IFC) and Hotel Association of Nepal, we are soon forming a monitoring team that will include experts from IFC. We have asked HAN to develop a program for training of hotel employees. From the coming fiscal year, we will conduct regular inspection of hotels to make sure that they provide quality service to clients.
Tulsi Prasad Gautam,
Director General of the Department of Tourism
Nepal is working to welcome 2 million tourists by 2020. What is the department doing in terms of tourism infrastructure development?
We would not be able to focus much on infrastructure development this year. In the next fiscal year, we will team up with Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) to develop tourism infrastructures in different parts of the country.
At present, a team is surveying the Great Himalaya Trail to study what type of infrastructures is needed there. We have allocated Rs 50 million for the purpose. We are also working to build trekkers´ sheds in Thorong Pass. Similarly, study is underway to build necessary infrastructures for establishing direct bus service to major Indian cities.
Tourism entrepreneurs have been complaining about lengthy administrative procedures to register new businesses. What is the department doing to ease the process?
Our major objective is to create a single-window system for issuing license and permits for the new tourism businesses. We are working in this direction. IFC is helping us to develop a system for online registration of businesses. After the system is developed, companies can file their applications online. Our website is under construction and we are getting digitized. It will take 8 to 10 months to automate our services.