Nepal is hoping British Prince Harry’s high-profile visit from Saturday will revive the fortunes of its tourism industry, which is yet to recover from last year’s devastating earthquakes.
The 31-year-old, fourth in line to the British throne, landed in Kathmandu on Saturday afternoon for a five-day visit at a time when both countries are celebrating 200 years of diplomatic relations.
“The visit and the media hype surrounding it will definitely generate an encouraging response all over and boost tourism,” Deepak R Joshi, CEO of the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), told Hindustan Times.
The prince will meet people affected by the quakes and take stock of efforts to reconstruct and restore heritage sites.
Besides official engagements, Prince Harry will join a jungle safari and go hiking and rafting – adventure activities that draw tourists from across the globe to this impoverished Himalayan nation.
“I want to show all those people around the world who want to help that this is a country open for business, so please come and visit again,” he said during a reception hosted by Nepal government on Saturday evening.
Visits to the Bardiya and Banke national parks, which form the largest tiger conservation area in Asia, rafting on Kauraha river and trekking in the foothills of the Himalayas too are part of his itinerary.
Meeting British Gurkha veterans and their families is part of the prince’s engagements in the resort town of Pokhara.
Income generated from tourism-related activities is one of the mainstays of Nepal’s GDP, but the earthquakes in April and May that killed nearly 9,000 have had a negative impact on tourist footfalls.
According to NTB figures, there was a 32% drop in tourist arrivals in 2015. Tourism contributes 4.6% to the GDP, which is largely dependent on remittances from Nepali workers.
The earthquakes were followed by internal turmoil as Madhesis living in the Terai plains bordering India blocked the border for more than four months to push their demands for changes in the country’s new Constitution.
The blockade, lifted last month, resulted in a severe shortage of essential goods and fuel products.
These developments had prompted Britain to issue warnings advising its citizens not to visit quake-affected regions in Nepal. The restrictions were lifted this month after the announcement of Prince Harry’s visit.