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Monday, January 19, 2009

World tourism Day -Tourism Opens Doors for Women

"World Tourism Day, " is celebrated on September 27, around the globe to commemorate the achievements as well as to instigate new avenues of global tourism on directives of United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The celebration also explores and highlights the strength and weaknesses of the industry as a whole in an effective and efficient way.

Moreover, the main purpose of World Tourism Day (WTD) is to promote awareness at the national and international level focusing on importance of tourism by highlighting its social, cultural, political and economic values in a profound way.

On contrary to that, this year, the WTD is themed as "Tourism Opens Doors for Women". This campaign celebrates women’s achievements in the tourism sector by promoting gender equality and women empowerment.
Today when the issue of women empowerment is emphasized so much in the international arena, the issue of role of women in Nepalese tourism industry seems questionable, creating and highlighting the scope of women's in the industry.

Bandinima Sherpa , Managing Director of Tenzing Asian Holidays expressed," Tourism is the only industry where women are working with equal opportunity. On contrary, if you compare women participation in any other field then it's very satisfying and high."

She added, “The current WTD theme is inappropriate because the door of tourism was never closed for women so there is no point in saying that. At first women should be provided with proper education, as when a woman is educated, then she would educate her family and the rest. Therefore, the first focus should be good education and then the rest.”

"The government should first give equal rights and equal opportunity of education only after that when the women are independent then they can think of their future", said Sherpa.
She suggested, the government should initiate a program to felicitate the women entrepreneurs in rural, which would motivate them and other to work in their field more effectively and efficiently.

In Nepal it is seen that women participation in tourism industry is high but is limited in certain areas or is culturally linked with limited reach to proper training and skills. First the quality education and training needs to be addressed focusing on the current trend of arrival's, life style of tourists and their needs. "If women were to give better opportunities in-terms of acquiring skillful training in tourism, Nepal's tourism would be revolutionized and would be thriving in the days to come", said the another lady in tourism, Shobha Rayamajhi, Managing Director of 1905.

"Tourism has to be structured with vision and should be targeted for long term sustainability where the role of women in tourism be categorically described," added she.

She further added, “Tourism is one of the fastest growing industries globally. Its periphery is vague in nature. Sadly, benefits of tourism could hardly be dispersed from the cities and handful of other destinations. As tourist, they do not come here to see Kathmandu. They come here to see the natural beauty, culture and tradition. We have to reach out and create such environment where tourism can grow in a sustainable manner. For the development of rural women more skill oriented training like hospitality, hygiene etiquette, spoken English should be provided so that they could give a quality service to the tourists.”

On the same, Hikmat Singh Ayer, Director of Tourism Product and Research Department said, "The WDT is a celebration which marks the tourism industry. In Nepal WTD is becoming more like one of our festivals where we perform our traditional rituals to welcome the tourists visiting Nepal. Similarly I believe that celebration of WTD will certainly help promote tourism of the countries through their cultural and tradition events."

Ayer further added, “In the context of Nepal, if you look at the women participation, the number is exciting to see but we need to focus more on strengthening them to from a quality work force. Therefore, effective measures should be taken to promote tourism as any other industry to develop it in a professional way.”

Briefing more about the happening, Ayer further said, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) has already issued budget to the tourism-related associations. Different cultural and traditional programs are taking place in the country to mark this very day. Likewise, this year Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) is primarily focusing on 250th Kumari Jatra festival.

Highlighting the current prospect of socialization and marketing, Yankila Sherpa, Managing Director of Snow Leopard Trek said, "Tourism is a field where you need to compete with your competitor and at the same time you need to know the market which requires a lot of travelling and socializing. This can be seen as a major hindrance for women entrepreneurs."

“Perhaps, it is a field where you need to know your product and as well as to know the outside market. Tourism has many sectors where cultural, hotel and travel agencies are open for women but the adventure sector is still lacking behind because of the socio cultural region. Yet, few women are coming which looks promising", added Sherpa.

“You need to socialize, network and research with and about your client and in Nepal, the social obligation obstructs women from such timely activities. Moreover, it is more costly affair for women entrepreneur for such activities. So awareness should be raised at family level to uplift the women status,” stated she.

She also suggested the government should initiate some incentive program to promote women entrepreneurs at national level.

Ironically women have to be well equipped with education, skill and training as they have to compete against men who have direct access in market, socializing and so on, added Sherpa.

Like every year, Nepal is observing WTD with various programs and events. The associations like Thamel Tourism Development Council (TTDC), Kirtipur Tourism Development Committee (KTDC), Bhaktapur Tourism Development Committee (BTDC), Patan Tourism Development Committee (PTDC), Pokhara Tourism Council (PTC) are all set with arrays of programs to mark WTD in Nepal. Similarly all the associations will also have their own set of programs during the day. TTDC is organizing The Thamel Street Festival –2007 and will be enacting the Vehicle Regulated Zone in Thamel on the same day KTDC is all set for a cultural rally to create awareness of tourism in the area and would also be felicitating the arrivals by showcasing and promoting their ethnic culture and tradition. BTDC is also organizing a cultural and a Handicraft Exhibition in Bhaktapur where tourists would be felicitated and would give out free stay packages to the first few tourists.
Similarly, PTDC has a plan to hold a Photo exhibition of Mukunda Bahadur Shrestha to mark the WTD. Pokhara Tourism Council (PTC) has also declared to organize various activities in Pokhara to mark WTD while Nepal Cycling Club has announced a 25 Km cycle rally around the Kathmandu valley. All these events have been supported and promoted by NTB.

There should be no doubt on the potential of tourism to open doors for women unless a conducive environment is created for them. The policies are to be made accordingly. Nepalese tourism if compared to other neighboring and Asian countries is still lagging behind and are traditionally run. Out of many challenges, developing tourism in a more inclusive manner is a great challenge ahead of Nepal. The benefit of tourism could still not be dispersed in a rightful manner where only a handful of people have been benefited and out of them women directly benefited by tourism is very nominal. Despite the fact, the growing women participation in tourism is certainly encouraging, so a relative thought needs to be given to rethink and empower women in policy and decision making level where we are still lacking. Perhaps just by acclimatizing and celebrating, the theme of the WTD would not be enough, if we lose to empower women by forming a pro-women environment and policies.

By Shreedeep Rayamajhi


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