Tourism planning, development, management and envisioning future of Pokhara
‘A tourist destination if fails to plan, lans to fail. All planning is intervention in the present with the aim of building a better future’ (Ashworth 1991, p.1).
When Maurice Herzog and his team of mountaineers scaled the top of Annapurna I in 1950, they probably did not realize that they were not only the trailblazers of mountaineering but also the milestone setters in the tourism development of Nepal (especially in Pokhara and its surrounding areas). The spree of mountain climbing then became so intense that by the end of 1950s all the eight-thousanders in Nepal were conquered. Lately, Colonel Jimmy Roberts, who was assigned to recruit the young boys of the region in the British Army, enunciated “trekking” as a favorite activity for himself, his colleagues and for his guests. That initiative has evolved in the form of an industry, offering the trekkers some of the best trekking trials of the world.
Today tourism in Pokhara has been experienced with various ups and downs, yet it still offers a very promising outlook in terms of economic benefits. Pokhara has become a gateway to the popular trekking routes towards Annapurna and Dhaulagiri regions and hub for other satellite towns and villages in the surroundings. The first and only one Tourism Master Plan of Nepal was drafted in 1972, which gave a direction to the policy makers as well as to the entrepreneurs of Nepal for future development. The Plan clearly indicates that Pokhara contains more potentiality after Kathmandu and the development of tourism should be implemented with this fact on mind. Subsequent to the Plan, the Pacific Asia Development Authority was asked in 1975 by the then Department of Tourism to study the Pokhara Valley and also to advise how the development of this area could be best handled so as to exert the potential outlined in the Tourism Master Plan of 1972. In this context, this article attempts to discuss the past efforts for the planning and chronological development of tourism in Pokhara. Finally, it comes out with some concrete future visions for the sensible planned development of tourism sector in Pokhara. From methodological point of view, this chapter is based on the review of already published critical researches in the same subject.
2. Periodic planned development of tourism in Pokhara: A bird-eye observation
Since the very early days of tourism development in Nepal, Pokhara has secured, developed and maintained an image of a successful and most pleasant tourist destination among the holiday makers. Many studies on tourism have clearly pointed towards the huge tourism potentiality of Pokhara for further tourism development. The government of Nepal since the very beginning has emphasized the development of tourism sector in a planned way. The paragraphs below offer information and also discuss these scenarios.
2.1 Development of tourism as per periodic national plans
There are a total of twelve different national plan documents prepared in Nepal since 1956, where tourism has got its space in each of these plans at national level. The first Five-Year Plan (1956-60) attempted to increase the foreign exchange earnings from tourism by establishing Tourism Development Board in 1957 and appending it to the Department of Tourism in 1959. The other subsequent eleven periodic plans have also recognized tourism as a promising economic sector and offered due emphasis on development of tourism facilities, capacity buildings, international tourism promotions, institutional arrangements and also the development of aviation sector. Table 3.1 offers some milestones at a glance in terms of formulations of these plans for the systematic development of tourism in Pokhara.
Table 3.1 Major milestones in the course of the planned development of tourism in Pokhara
Tourism development plans
|1972||Recommendations with regional concept and resort development around the Fewa Lake with special focuses to traditional designs, materials, and height limits of buildings
|Government of Nepal in association with the Federal Republic of Germany through Tourism Master Plan 1972|
|1974-75||Development of Pokhara valley by allocating Baidam and Fewa lakeside in the east as the main areas of toruism but prohibiting the settlement of construction towards the south-west area of Fewa Lake
|Department of Housing and Physical Planning|
|1975||With immense potentials, Pokhara to be development primarily for Himalayan adventure instead of lake destination
|The Pacific Asia Travel Association Development Authority|
|1981||Master plan of Pokhara by stipulating height limit and distance location from the road and Fewa Lake||Town Planning Committee of Pokahra and Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning
|1988||Greater emphasis on the Fewa Lake area for tourism development
|Pacific Asia Travel Association|
|2001||Clear indication to challenges faced and might be faced amidst the armed conflict regarding tourism development in the future
|Nepal Rastra Bank, Pokhara Branch|
Source: Compiled from various sources of the Government of Nepal, Pacific Asia Travel Association, Nepal Rastra Bank, and Pokhara Tourism Council
Pokhara was declared the headquarters of western development region in 1972 during the fourth five year plan, and it emerged as a center for economic activities of the western region. Consequently, the Department of Housing and Physical Planning drafted a development plan of Pokhara valley in 1974-75. In had allocated Baidam and Fewa Lakeside as the main areas for tourism, declared the bank of Fewa Lake “Green Belt Area”, and prohibited any type of construction around this site. The settlement on the south-west of Fewa Lake was evacuated for conservation and the present “Raniban”, a dense forest emerged just above the southwest of the lake.
In 1981, the Town Development Committee of Pokhara and Ministry of Housing and Physical formulated Master Plan of Pokhara Municipality. It stipulated height limit, prescribed distance of buildings from the road and the Fewa Lake (Poudel 1996). However, owing to the political changes and interventions, the proposed programs could not be implemented and, as a result, Pokhara, especially Baidam, has emerged into a site of haphazardly built concrete structures that blocked the mountain views from the Lakeside area. Similarly, The Fewa Lake is increasingly being polluted due to the sewage from the septic tanks of the hotels. Besides such alarming situation, the lake itself has shrunken approximately one third since 1940 due to siltation, landslides, floods and human encroachment (Lamichhaneet al.2009).
Unfortunately, contrary to the expectations of the public, after the first People’s Movement of 1990, more violations of the norms and standards as mentioned in the Master Plan of Pokharahave been noted. Housing and Urban Development Committee in 1990, and a task force of the Ministry of Housing and Physical Planning in 1992 attempted to follow the norms of 1981 Master Plan of Pokhara. However, they also remained effective only in papers and meetings (Poudel 1996) and could not reach a proper implementation.
2.2 Development of tourism from the perspective of Tourism Master Plan 1972
The Tourism Master Plan of 1972 was the first and only one of this kind and also was the result of joint efforts of the then Government of Nepal and the Government of the Republic of Germany. Over a period of ten months, the master plan study team collected and analyzed data and information in the relevant fields in order to formulate the plan with long-term perspective, and to set a detailed action oriented programs for the period up to 1980 with a phase-wise development concept (HMGN 1972).
The Tourism Master Plan had come up with various propositions; regional concept of tourism, tourism facility plans, institutional development programs, and marketing programs. In connection with tourism in Pokhara, the Master Plan anticipated;
- A decentralized pattern of tourism development in the future. While in the initial phase, facilities in the Kathmandu area would expand, priority would gradually be given to development Pokhara,
- That Pokhara will develop into a major resort centre once its recreational potential and the proximity of the Himalayas are improved.
Pokhara and surroundings hold many natural attractions and recreational resources suited for resort development owing to its lakes and proximity to the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri mountains. The plan duly recognized the potential and proposed various interventions. Machhapuchhre, “the fist tail” peak with the bold pyramidal shape, one of the most beautiful peaks in the world, stands close to the town. Similarly, to preserve the local architectures of Pokhara, the government was advised to design buildings that could set an example of the use of traditional design, materials, and height limit, particularly around the lake. The Master Plan had recommended Pokhara as the most suitable place for resort development and suggested seting the lake area (Fewa Lake) aside for the purpose and to direct urban expansion of Pokahra towards the south. The hotels in future better to be developed along the north shores as the southern shore are especially attractive as they provide a good view of the Annapurna massif. Basic infrastructural investments are necessary to open up in the resort area and to encourage private investment. To succeed, the most important current tasks are: to prepare a development plan for the area, to design the buildings using local materials, and to build the low rise buildings on the pattern of the existing lodges. The Master Plan further recommended for landscaping of the lake area and conducting bio-chemical analysis of the lake and its suitability for swimming and other activities. Recreational facilities would include possibilities for boating, fishing, and swimming. Sports facilities would include a small golf course and two tennis courts. Excursion to scenic spots in the valley and its surroundings was to be promoted. The local supply would be distinctively different from that of Kathmandu, featuring a more rural setting of facilities, open air activities and amenities for nature lovers (HMGN 1972).
The Master Plan has also suggested an outline for resort development in Pokhara. A development plan was to be prepared for the entire area to include urban expansion of Pokhara Bazaar. The plan should consider an initial land of 20 hectares area along the northern, eastern and southern shores of the lake. The first stage of development would include an estimated public expenditure of NPR 3 millions for site development, land acquisition, provision and extension of power and water supply lines, constructions of approach roads, as well as landscaping. Reforestation is recommended at the upper PhurseKhola to avoid further siltation of the lake. Public funds should be considered for the development of recreational amenities such as golf courses and tennis courts. For the second stage of resort development expenditures a budget totaling NPR 2 millions was estimated to include extension of the site, public utilities, and roads as well as land acquisition and landscaping. In terms of accessibility, this has been highly emphasized for the development of tourism in Pokhara. The Master Plan has recommended that the construction costs for Pokhara Airport would greatly increase requiring additional expenditures allocation of NPR 20 millions on top of whatever amount had been already earmarked.
With its lakes and nearness to the proposed National Park (Annapurna Conservation Area), Pokhara possesses development recreational resources. However, the cultural attractions are very few in comparison to Kathmandu or other areas of Nepal. Yet the magnificent scenery compensates more than the lack of other sightseeing opportunities. The potential demand includes, in the sequence of importance, the following three types;
- Sightseeing visitors along the proposed tour routing
- Vacation tourism from India
- Trekking tourism
Although many of the recommendations put forth by the Master Plan are yet to be implemented, the Plan deemed to set a perspective in terms of long-term tourism development in the country. However, so far as the land use for the planning in Pokhara is concerned, the propositions outlined in the Tourism Master Plan of 1972 had been superseded by the subsequent comprehensive Physical Development Plan of Pokhara development by the Department of Housing and Physical Planning. As a consequence, the southern shores of Fewa Lake which were recommended in the Tourism Master Plan for the main tourism development activity sites have now been zoned for lakeside preservation. Further, an area of the valley, between Pardi and Seti River and the immediate south of the existing Pokhara airport was zoned instead for tourism development. This is a major change from the situation described in the Tourism Master Plan and one which negates a number of its recommendations regarding Pokhara.
2.3 ‘Pokhara, Nepal, Development of a Secondary Destination Area’ by Pacific Area Travel Association Development Authority (1975)
The Pacific Area Travel Association Development Authority was asked by the Department of Tourism of Nepal to study the Pokhara valley and to advise how the development of this area could be the best handled so as to fulfill the potential outlined in the Tourism Master Plan of 1972.
As tourism development in Pokhara since 1972 had not produced the desired results, the Department of Tourism sought to determine whether the development could indeed help to;
a) Extend the stay of tourists in Nepal from three to five days,
b) Take some of the tourist pressure off Kathmandu,
c) Improve the ability of the area to fill the gap of economic growth between itself and that of the Kathmandu valley or the more favored parts of the Terai (PATA 1975).
In this context, the study of PATA was conducted exclusively for Pokhara. In 1975 PATA published the report “Pokhara- Nepal, Development of a Secondary Destination,” presenting a series of observations and recommendations for tourism development. It had forwarded its findings and recommendations as follows;
- Pokhara has tremendous amount of possibilities to evolve as a secondary tourist destination after Kathmandu.
- The reasons for tourists coming to Pokhara (motivation to travel) were the Himalayas and trekking, so the marketing of Pokhara should be primarily for Himalayas not for the Lakes. Once they are in Pokhara, the reasons and motivations for staying longer in Pokhara are the people, the town, the rural scene, the lakes, and the climate.
- Gorkha Museum and Mountaineering Museum should be established, a walkers’ guide for Pokhara should be developed, the tourism development should be towards bazaar area, and the slopes of Sarangkot above the Bindhabasini Temple.
- The Tourism Master Plan of 1972 and PATA’s findings differed in the following aspects;
- The lakes: The Tourism Master Plan emphasized the lakes but the evaluation of PATA study team reduced their significance as a tourist attraction. It was because of the lakeside preservation zoning decision and also because they do not share with Annapurna the uniqueness that would bring tourists from far afield to Pokhara. They were basically the sorts of attractions that could keep tourists happy once they arrived.
- The town: The appeal of Pokhara was that it could offer the attractive urban and village architecture in a very Pleasant setting that was different from and yet complementary to the temples of Kathamandu. The attractiveness of the town was a significant asset and it maintained that future tourism development would benefit from proximity to the Bazaar as opposed to being located in the Pardi area.
- Recreation: Pokhara is the first and the foremost sightseeing area and should develop this potential before it started to become the resort area recommended in the Tourism Master Plan. In such an isolated location, there was inevitably a question about the success of the resort approach; in any case, it should not be considered until Pokhara became a more mature destination with well-developed facilities for sightseeing and shopping and larger visitor base.
- For further development, the packages of Nepal can be combined with the beach packages of Sri Lanka. Since most European tourists want to include beach holidays in their package, Nepal should work towards creating triangular flights, for instanc; Frankfurt-Kathamandu-Colombo-Frankfurt. This would increase the inflow of tourists to Nepal and eventually to Pokhara as the fares would be more competitive and the package would be more diverse.
- Additionally, the area should be promoted as a greater Pokhara giving more options to the tourists.
- The Indian honeymoon travel segment mostly concentrates in the July-August period when Pokhara faces the shoulder season due to the monsoon rain. Similarly the Indian tourists prefer hill stations and religious sites to beach resorts and historical cities during their vacation.
- Since Pokhara receives a lot of rainfall, some indoor activities such as indoor games, theater to watch movies, and opera should be developed to make them stay longer during monsoon. French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch travelers were found visiting Pokhara during the monsoon.
- The Department of Tourism should keep a daily record of the hours when the mountains are visible and of the hours when it is raining.
- Diversifying the sightseeing options; for example including Begnas and Rapa Lake of developing hiking trails along the ridge that divides the two lakes.
- Activities like walking, riding, swimming, fishing, and evening entertainment (military parade by ex-Gorkhas, changing of guards, etc) are highly recommended for Pokhara.
There are several other recommendations for the development of tourism in Pokhara. Some of the recommendations have been implemented (e.g. Mountain Museum, Gorkha Museum, etc.) some have become obsolete now and some are still valid but seem increasingly difficult to execute.
2.4 ‘Pokhara 1988’ by Pacific Asia Travel Association
At the request of the Department of Tourism and of the PATA Nepal Chapter, a team of four members including three from the original task force of 1975 went again to Pokhara at the end of January 1988 to assess what had happened since 1975. The team of PATA prepared a report titled “Pokhara 1988” that included several references to the conservation of Pokhara and the valley, and presented a number of recommendations. Some points having major significance for future tourism development in Pokhara are outlined as follows (PATA 1988);
- Many of the findings of the 1975 PATA report on Pokhara had not yet been implemented. The 1988 PATA team found, however, that in by far the majority of cases, they were still valid.
- In order to turn this situation around and to move Pokhara forward its tourism potential, a strong commitment on the part of the government and an enthusiastic involvement on the part of the private sector were required.
- In the report of 1975, PATA recommended that Pokhara hotels would have to ‘concentrate on providing the tourists with the primary items, cleanliness, safe food and drinking water and a comfortable bed in a well-ventilated room with an efficiently functioning shower and toilet.’ Whereas the investment in the accommodation facilities apparently exceeded the demand, yet meeting even the basic facilities, for instance, water supply, was full of challenges. That the hotels and lodges situated in the Baidam area still pumped water from the Fewa Lake was a clear evidence of the pathetic situation of water supply of water supply in the area.
- The report also mentioned that there had been an extensive development of the small hotel and guest house properties located in the Baidam area. The then estimate was of 600 to 700 rooms as the dominant element in Pokhara accommodation. The proliferation of these properties led to deep price cutting with the result that room rates could be uneconomic and as low as 10/15 NPR per night,
- Trekking had grown to a great degree since 1975. The impact of this on tourist operations in the Pokhara valley did not appear to have been as great as expected.
- The modern construction in some of the rural parts of Pokhara deteriorated their charms. It had tended to make Fewa Lake a more important element in Pokhara visitors’ experience than it was considered to be by the 1975 Task Force. After reviewing the 1988 situation, the placement of a greater emphasis on the Lake area for tourism development was recommended.
After various observations, the team recommended the establishment of the basis for further growth by addressing the following key problem areas and adopting an action plan;
i. Improvement of road access and air services: The question of a new airport was also one that would have to be addressed. The construction of such facilities normally took 5 to 10 years. If tourism remained and important element in national planning, a new airport was essential in Pokhara. Not only would the development of a new airport enable the introduction of medium jet service to open up new quality markets overseas, it would also provide an important alternative to the airport in Kathamandu should weather conditions necessitate diversions. The pokhara airport could develop as a hub for air services into west Nepal and could siphon off some of the operational congestion which might otherwise begin to develop in Kathmandu. Interestingly, some of the Indain tour operators indicated that there could be considerable amount of demand for Delhi-Pokhara-Kathmandu-Delhi service and special interest chartered flights to Pokhara.
ii. Quality Control: Pokhara suffered because the supply exceeded demand leading to an unhealthy competition in price and negligence in the quality of services to the tourists. Pokhara could develop into a quality oriented destination rather than a price-oriented one.
iii. Conservation: The team found that the initial charm observed in 1975 had been deteriorating and that this important asset was being used up, but neither preserved nor revived.
iv. The following actions were recommended by the ‘Pokhara 1988’ team of PATA:
- The licensing of hotels, guesthouses, trekking agencies and trekking lodges should be regulated in such a way that the number and standard of individual units are subject to control.
- A self-regulating body within the industry or perhaps supported by government, for example; a hotel association, a trekking association or a Pokhara tourism association would establish certain standards and grant its stamp of approval only to those enterprises that met the standards.
- The planning capability was found to be in place but the implementing commitment was missing and the planned activities were not translated into action.
- Part of the regulations that could be introduced would be a height limit on construction, particularly around the lake, in Pokhara town and in the more attractive villages. As recommended in the 1975 report, it would be helpful if future government buildings could set an example of the use of traditional design and materials.
- It was strongly recommended that the northern shore of Fewa Lake should be kept open for public access. The standard often used in lakeside planning was for all private structures to be set back at least 200 feet from the lakeshore and no private ownership was encouraged to extend all way down to the water. It would be possible to construct a path around the lakeshore to facilitate public access for walking and perhaps cycling.
- As recommended in 1975, it was still important to maintain a consistently accurate statistics of the visitors to Pokhara. For planning purpose, it would be equally important to keep records each day, from the meteorological station, of the hours of mountains’ visibility, and the incidence of rainfall.
- The report ‘Pokhara, 1988’ included several references to the conservation of tourism resources in Pokhara valley. One specific recommendation was on the need to conserve the historic building located on the Ram KrishanTole, a historically important by the trodden way of the salt route to Tibet. This study prepared an inventory of 310 buildings in Ram KrishanTole, Ganesh Tole, BhimsenTole, BhairavTole, and MohanriaTole after an extensive survey. All the buildings were photographed, encoded, categorized, and evaluated for their tourism and cultural potential and recommendations were outlined for conservation of these resources. The summary conclusion of the report was that the long row of buildings on Ram Krishna Tole that related to the salt trade traffic was a marvelous string of important traditional buildings. The buildings were intact, though baldly neglected. They could be restored to become wonderful community and tourism assets. This could be a lively shopping street again (PATA 1988).
2.5 ‘Pokhara: Historic Resources Study and Proposal for a Conservation District Pokhara, Nepal’ by PATA
As PATA took initiatives and came out with a report titled ‘Pokhara Historic Resources Study and Proposal for a Conservation District Pokhara’, which was published in 1990 (PATA 1990). The report sets out criteria on which judgments can be made regarding a building’s relative importance in natural settings of Pokhara. The report also makes recommendations regarding the implementation of a conseration program for the continued preservation of buildings in Pokhara. Besides, policies are also proposed to designate and protect those buildings which are deemed significant in the evaluation process.
2.6 ‘Tourism Business in Pokhara-Problems, Challenges and Outcomes 2057-A Special Study’ by Nepal Rostra Bank, Pokhara Branch
Banking Development and Research Unit, Pokhara Branch of Nepal Rastra Bank, conducted a special study in 2057 B.S. (2000 A.D.) to assess the economic importance of tourism in Pokhara and its contribution to the overall tourism economy of Nepal. It also scrutinized the challenges Pokhara was facing and it might face in the future regarding tourism development. The major findings of the report were as follows (NRB 2001);
- In average, each hotel employed 32 persons. A star hotel employed 85 and a nonstar 13. The travel and trekking agency in average employed 9 persons. The occupancy rate of the hotels was 30 percent, and 58.49 percent hotels used domestic production for tourism consumption.
- The average length of stay in Pokhara was 2.25 but average including trekking in the surrounding region was 8 days. Some 21 percent of the visitors to Nepal went to Pokhara and 50 percent of them were trekkers.
- Some 32 percent tourists to Pokhara were repeat visitors, 18.87 percent tourists thought Pokhara was cheaply priced, and 75.47 thought it a moderately priced.
- The majority of the tourism entrepreneurs thought that efforts to promote Pokhara were not enough; the business culture was yet to be developed, quality of tourist services needed upgrade so that the tourists would be encouraged to spend rather than save.
- The conflicting provisions in the Tourism Act and Transportation Act in defining tourists created confusion, which resulted in increasing harassment of the domestic tourists traveling to Pokhara by tourist buses.
- Majority of the entrepreneurs in Pokhara and visitors to Pokhara perceived people in Pokhara as helpful and friendly but not well-educated. Further, they thought there was lack of tourism infrastructure and international/regional airport for convenient air passage.
- The survey revealed that the purposes of visit to Pokhara included: 64 percent for trekking, 24 percent for recreation, and 12 percent for others.
- The source of information involved: 41 percent recommended by friends and relatives, 26 percent by their own sources, 23 percent by group traveling, and 10 percent-others.
- Majority of the residents of Pokhara felt proud that they were living in Pokhara and they had highly positive attitude towards tourists and tourism.
- Some of the hotels in Lakeside area had been found using lake water or water from Seti canal which was not hygienic and it did not give positive impression to the visitors.
3. Tourism today in Pokhara
United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has reported that one billion people crossed their borders for tourism purpose in 2012. This huge movement of people was expected to create one job in every 10 jobs and generate income of 2 billion each day. According to World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), tourism sector contributed 4 percent in value addition to the national GDP, created 412,000 direct jobs, and occupied 24.5 percent of total exports in case of Nepal in 2011.
The tourism potential of Pokhara, undoubtedly, is being underutilized. Although this is not different than most of the other tourism destinations in Nepal, Pokhara by far has more chances of translating the prospects into reality. In terms of tourism facilities, investment in tourism, tourists’ stays, movement of domestic tourists, accessibility, and in so many other parameters, Pokhara is far ahead of other tourism destiantions in Nepal. As pointed out in so many documents and books, the close proximity to the mountains and the pleasant weather are two major ingredients which make up the unique tourism recipe, so many other destinations inside and outside Nepal find it enviable. It is now wonder that in terms of trekkers’ preferences and numbers, Annapurna Region, to which Pokhara serves as a gateway, surpasses the Everest Region and in average 22 percent of tourists visiting Nepal visit Pokhara (MoTCA 2011).
Although the number of tourists to Pokhara over the years seems substantial and is growing, it is firmly believed that the number could have been far greater had the proper mechanism to collect arrival data been in place. Moreover, data of Indian tourists and domestic tourists traveling to Pokhara are not yet accounted for. This lack of proper tourist data seriously abbreviates the size of tourism economy of Pokhara.
4. Tourism planning in Pokhara
The PATA study team in 1975 had clearly pointed out that the suggestions for tourism development in Pokhara had been challenged from the very beginning as Pokhara failed to comply with the recommendations of Tourism Master Plan 1972. As a consequence, the Fewa Lake has been heavily polluted and endangered of premature extinction, the charm of old bazaar is vanished and Baidam, the hotspot of tourism activities, might soon be changed into a tasteless assortment of concrete buildings. Not only that, degrading tourism-scape observed in Pokhara coupled with unhealthy competition among the service providers has decreased the price and quality of services and reduced the return on investment. All these adverse effects evidently can be witnessed in the form of negative physical, human, marketing, organizational, and environmental impacts in Pokhara, which, if not addressed with a proper planning, will eventually shy away the quality tourists to other destinations.
A close review of the tourism plans of the past revealed that implementing the plans could be more challenging than merely drafting a good plan. However, this article suggests that an integrated tourism management plan development. To ensure the implementation of the suggestions by the concerned agencies, roles and responsibilities of the diverse stakeholders should be clearly chalked out in the initial phase. Another crucial aspect of good tourism planning is to create a sense of ownership among the stakeholders so that do not feel forced of regulated when it comes to implementing the actions. In this context. The need of the formulation and application of self-governed, voluntary and disciplinary codes of conduct have been felt important for the planned development of tourism with the vision of responsible and sustainable tourism criteria in Pokhara.
There is high emphasis for responsible tourism development through the application of the codes of conduct on integrated approach in this joint effort in Pokhara. A joint research and a small scale responsible tourism development interventions by Pokhara Tourism Council, the Swiss National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) North-South and Kathmandu University highlight this aspect (Upadhayaya and Khatiwada 2012; NCCR North-South 2013). Codes of conduct manual and corporate social responsibility general guidelines for tourism sector in Pokhara have been formulated and published in association with Nepal Tourism Board in 2013. These guidelines have been relevant in the context of the deteriorating state of natural and cultural heritages and poor management of touristic areas in Pokhara in the past.
5. Future outlooks
Because of the wide ranging effects of tourism on a destination, it is vital that development be undertaken within a framework of a plan. Tourism planning basically suggests the best course of action among various alternatives for the future of tourism. Only tourism planning cannot be a pancacea and does not guarantee success in tourism. However, it is an essential activity in today’s rapidly changing business environment. Although it is true that some tourism destinations have flourished without any conscious planning, many have suffered serous consequences for not carefully considering future events and their impacts on destination (Mill and Morrison 2002).
While formulating tourism plan for Pokhara and surrounding areas, apart from the involvement of experts from the field of planning, it is imperative that technical experts in conservation, environment, physical planning, economics and culture are also consulted. It will ensure smooth synthesis of divergent perspectives to the tourism plan and enhance the chances of successful implementation.
6. Envisioning tourism plan of Pokhara
Mill and Morrison (2002) suggested that Tourism Planning can be initiated at a variety of levels in tourism destinations. For instance, in case of Nepal, Tourism Master Plan of 1972 was drafted at the national level. Although there are no examples of regional or zonal planning in Nepal, instances of tourism plan at the district level and site-specific plans are plenty. Steps or process of formulating tourism plans may vary from destination to destination depending upon the nature of tourism destination and stakeholders’ participation. Pragmatic approach adopted by the tourism administration and approach suggested by academicians was also found to differ substantially. Therefore, the following steps are suggested in case of Pokhara to incorporate the practical approaches followed by tourism practitioners and theoretical framework suggested by the academicians.
6.1 Assessment of tourism resources
Pokhara has already secured a place one of the most preferred destinations in Nepal. However, an assessment of existing government policies, objectives, and programs should be carefully done before initiating new tourism plan as the national tourism policy and plans affect the future tourism development and its pace. Review of past tourism plans and programs should be carried out to measure the impact, success and failure of such plans. Assessment of current situation of the tourism attractions and events, tourism facilities and infrastructure, carrying capacity, and human resources should be made before suggesting any future plan of actions. Profiles and characteristics of the current and past visitors should be reviewed in order to assess the existing demand of tourism in Pokhara and surrounding areas. Analysis of major tourism strengths, weaknesses, major problems, and pertinent issues pertaining to Pokhara helps determine the potential of future tourism development and community attitudes towards realizing the potential. Another way of assessing the background and current situation is to conduct tourism resources analysis, tourism activity analysis, tourism market and its segment analysis, and analyzing what and how other competing destinations of Pokhara are performing.
The assessment and analysis of the tourism resources and markets is followed by determining and envisioning of the desired future situation for Pokhara in the light of where Pokhara would like to be in the long run. The vision basically incorporates the following aspects.
- Desired development and physical changes in Pokhara and surrounding areas including tourism attractions, facilities, infrastructure and superstructure, transportation, communication, banking and health facilities in the planned period.
- Support services and activities: Establishing benchmark of desired hospitality and services, signage, and tourism information system in and around Pokhara.
- Marketing and promotion: New marketing strategies and positioning approaches for Pokhara, packaging of tours and trekking, desired role of private sector travel trade in promotion of their private business as well as promotion of Pokhara as a destination.
- Institutional arrangement: Desired changes to the structure of government agencies and coordination among the major players, changes in role and structure of Nepal Tourism Board, and commitment required from the private sector travel trade.
- Community awareness of tourism in Pokhara: Desired level of participation from the communities of Pokhara and surrounding areas in tourism activities and benefits.
The tourism envisioning in Pokhara is expressed in terms of the above statements and tourism plan should provide the bridge between the present tourism situation and the desired future situation. It is highly recommended that to set long term tourism vision of Pokhara, a series of participatory workshops are organized among the concerned government and semi-government agencies, private sector travel trade, communities, and other tourism stakeholders.
6.3 Setting tourism goal, tourism strategy and objectives
On the basis of the assessment and analysis of the background of tourism and setting the long term vision, the tourism plan of Pokhara should set goal, strategies, and objectives in line with the desired future situation in Pokhara. Further, the goal and strategies must be complementary to the tourism policy of the country. For example, the major goal for Pokhara could be generating employment, income, and economic development through tourism. Apart from the economic goal, Pokhara should also adopt a policy of sustainable tourism development as the pressure on the natural and cultural resources in Pokhara is the alarming level, especially on Fewa Lake and Annapurna Conservation Area. Once we set the goal for Pokhara, various tourism strategies may be formulated, selected, and implemented, depending upon the need of the area. For instance, Fewa Lake may need sustainable tourism strategies and attract high end tourists, whereas surrounding areas may need economy-oriented strategies to increase the flow the visitors. Once the goal and strategies are selected, it is easier to set the short term objectives. Some of the objectives of the tourism plan for Pokhara could be;
- Doubling the number of visitors in the plan period.
- Increasing the flow of tourists in shoulder and lean seasons (monsoon and winter).
- Spreading tourism flow to the surrounding areas.
- Mainstreaming Pokhara in the pathway of responsible tourism.
6.4 Development of tourism plan
The most crucial phase in the tourism planning process is synthesizing the previous elements into an action plan which details the programs and activities, timeline, roles and responsibilities of the main executing agency and supporting agencies, existing and possible sources of funding, desired outcome of the plan, performance indicators, and priority of the planned activities. The tourism plan may also contain the technical designs and specifications of particular sites, tourist maps with spatial information and description of tourism sites. Nowadays, Geographical Information System (GIS) is used to provide static as well as interactive spatial information and description of the tourism sites. In fact, a GIS based interactive map of Pokhara and Lekhnath has been developed and posted online by Nepal Tourism Board. It facilitates the flow of information to the end-use tourists in real time. The tourism plan of Pokhara may also draw from the technical reports prepared by PATA published with the title ‘Pokhara: Historic Resources Study and Proposal for a Conservation District Pokhara, Nepal’ in 1990 and various other reports on Fewa Lake conservation, and Annapurna Conservation Area Project at different dates.
In terms of tourism activities, Pokhara by far is ahead of any other destination in Nepal. Besides trekking and sightseeing, Pokhara has innovated new tourism products like ultra light aircraft flight, paragliding, jeep liner and differentiates itself as an interesting destination for the visitors. Therefore, new tourism plan of Pokhara should suggest new activities to attract incremental visitors as well as to lengthen their average stay. Some of the activities suggested in the previous plans; e.g., developing walking trails in and around Pokhara, Gorkha Parade, cycling routes, cultural tours in the old Pokhara bazaar, are still applicable and cluld be interesting to the visitors,
Drafting a tourism plan may not be as challenging as implementing it, owing to the diverse range of players and stakeholders in tourism who play key role in implementing the programs. To ensure that the tourism plan is accepted and executed, a sharing workshop among the stakeholders of Pokhara and surrounding areas may be organized to present the draft plan for review and revision before presenting it to the public.
6.5 Implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the tourism plan
The review of past tourism plans of Nepal and Pokhara has shown loud and clear that tourism plans are prepared but never or only partially implemented, not giving the desired outcome as laid out in the plans. One reason of failure could be vagueness or duplication in allocating the roles, responsibilities and objectives to specific organizations or associations. Another reason could be lack of funds to execute the planned programs and activities. In case of Pokhara, it has been observed that utter lack of coordination among the government agencies, different perspective of development and political pressure have badly affected the implementation. The conflicting recommendations put forth by the Tourism Master Plan 1972, and Physical Plan developed by the Department of Physical Planning in 1975 illustrate the vivid picture. Similarly, encroachment of the shores of Fewa Lake by the local residents is another example of lackadaisical attitude among the government agencies due to the political opprobrium.
To support the implementation of the tourism plan, it is mandatory to suggest a monitoring and evaluation mechanism. Most of the responsibilities of executing programs and activities are endowed upon Pokhara Office of Nepal Tourism Board and the private sector travel trade in Pokhara. They should also ensure that the planned activities are implemented and progress is achieved as was originally planned, as per the schedule and in accordance with the priority placed. Similarly, changes should be made to the plan if it is required by the circumstances. Another way to monitor is through the District Administration Office in Pokhara. Evaluation of tourism plan takes place once the period of the plan expires. The evaluation determines whether the desired outcome, objectives, and goals outlined in the tourism plan are achieved. If the plan fails to achieve the desired output, the reasons for non-performance are analyzed. However, for the impartial evaluation of the tourism plan, an independent evaluator may be hired.
The visual symphony of the mountains, the relaxing air of Pokhara valley, and the par the excellence cultural and natural and natural montage attracted mountaineers and explorers from different parts of the world in the past. Pokhara has gradually become the most important tourist destination in Nepal after Kathamandu. On the basis of these unique selling points, various efforts have been made to develop tourism in Pokhara in a planned way but the recommendations outlined in those plans were hardly implemented. However, it was not only the implementations of the recommendations of the various plans that remained weak in the past, but also the lack of consistency in the thrust of different plans. For example, the Master Plan of 1972 recommended the direct urban expansion including hotels towards the southern area of Pokhara whereas the development plan of Pokhara valley in 1974-75 prohibited the settlement of construction in the south-west of Fewalake. Likewise, there were diverging perspectives between the government in its Tourism Master Plan 1972 and PATA in its planned development advice in 1975 on the issue of the importance of the architectural beauty of the town. This trend had caused the lack of focus for the strong implementation of plan, which ultimately resulted in low achievement of the plan’s ambitions. Tourism planning may seem a cumbersome process and even more challenging to execute the suggestions. Tourist destination like Pokhara should not stay oblivious as the benefits from the tourism plan outweigh the hard work. The cost of good tourism planning can save the heavenly tourism-scape of Pokhara and surrounding areas from irreversible social, economic, cultural, and environmental damages.
To ensure that the suggestions of tourism plan be executed, an integrated approach in tourism planning issues should be adopted which helps linking tourism with national, regional and local development policy and programme. The plan and determination to the application of responsible and sustainable tourism policy and practices are also equally important which can enhance the understanding of the stakeholders about the prospects of benefits from tourism along with their own roles and responsibilities.
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