As Nepal picks up the pieces and rebuilds, the narrative is changing on the ever growing social media. Once filled with calls for donations to Nepal through fundraising sites, the digital platform is now abuzz with appeals urging people to visit Nepal and contribute to the country’s economy.
A social media campaign is slowly gaining momentum: photos of tourists cheerfully holding placards that read ‘I am in Nepal’ are a common sight on social networks. An album shared by Socialtours, a tour operator that started the campaign, has pictures of tourists smiling. With over 1,500 shares, it has reached more than 200,000 people on the Internet.
Raj Gyawali of Social Tours said they modelled the campaign on one in Tunisia hoping that it would encourage tourists to come to Nepal. “We want the people visiting this country now to spread the word and let their friends, family and community know that Nepal is safe to visit again,” he said.
Gyawali is a member of a Facebook group called “Nepal Tourism Recovery: Strategy and Action”, which has over 2,000 members. The group is a loose alliance of professionals from the tourism industry in and outside Nepal, working towards recovery after the earthquake that mostly affected 14 districts. Besides sharing ideas on the social network, they meet every Wednesday to discuss strategies and actions, and send them out to the industry at large.
Also, on Facebook and Twitter, “How can you help Nepal? By visiting us!” has become the new tagline. Journalist Rabindra Mishra, who has over 400k followers on Facebook, wrote a post that captures the vibe on the social media.
“Yes, certain parts of the country were devastated. Yes, sections of the World Heritage sites were destroyed. However, an overwhelming majority of tourist destinations are fine; all essential services, including the Internet, air and land transport are functioning normally and virtually all the hotels are open,” he posted on Facebook on Saturday. In three days, it has been shared almost 6,000 times.
The government has projected that Nepal could lose up to 40 percent tourists this year due to their mass departures after the Great Quake. More than 70 percent trips to Nepal for the upcoming season are estimated to have been cancelled. Nearly 800,000 tourists visited the country last year.