Untapped Potential of Monsoon Tourism

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Untapped Potential of Monsoon Tourism

There are lots of exciting and socialising activities to do during the monsoon in Nepal.

By Tamish Giri

On a wet June evening, as raindrops gracefully fell upon the streets of Patan, I found solace from the downpour at the charming Patan House Cafe. Little did I anticipate that this unplanned detour would lead me to a captivating encounter with a couple whose journey embodied the very essence of romance and adventure. Mohammad and Noor, a youthful Arabian couple from Abu Dhabi, were on their honeymoon in Nepal, seeking to embrace the enchantment of the monsoon season. Nestling into a cosy corner, the melodic patter of rain on the cafe's windows created a comforting atmosphere. Intrigued, I engaged Mohammad and Noor in conversation, and their story unfurled like a fairytale. "Choosing Nepal as our honeymoon destination was quite unconventional," Noor explained, her eyes gleaming with excitement. "We wanted to experience something extraordinary, away from the usual honeymoon spots. The allure of Nepal's monsoon season, with its rainy nights and sunny days, along with its mystical charm and verdant landscapes, drew us here." Mohammad added, "We believe that rain holds a special kind of magic, a metaphor for the ebb and flow of life. We hadn't experienced monsoon rain for ages back home. Feeling it here makes me symbolise it with the blossoming of love and the renewal of vows.

It seemed like the perfect backdrop for the beginning of our journey together." Likewise, the couple added that hiking to the hilltop village of Nagarkot was one of the most remarkable moments of their lives. “As we reached the top, the clouds parted, revealing a breathtaking panorama of the mighty Himalayas, glistening in the rain-soaked sunlight,” Noor shared. "It felt like the mountains were welcoming us to a new chapter of our lives." The monsoon season in Nepal is a period of low tourist movement. However, with effective planning and promotion, Nepal has the potential to gain a lot. The country possesses rich cultural and natural treasures associated with the season of rain that can be showcased to the world. Unfortunately, it has been neglected by tourism stakeholders who are aware that much can be done to attract individuals like Mohammad and Noor in significant numbers. Bijay Amatya, CEO of Kora Tours, said that tourism in Nepal is majorly low during the months of June and July due to rain. The number generally grows from October onwards. However, tourist numbers generally from India are high in monsoon if Tibet is open for pilgrimage tours to Mansarover. However, China this year has unfortunately only opened it for foreigners, but not for Indian tourists,” he added. On the other hand, a tourism entrepreneur, countered that the monsoon rain has a lesser impact on certain trekking routes, such as Manang and Mustang, which are located on the other side of the Himalayas. With an annual average rainfall of 1600 mm in Nepal, the trans-Himalayan regions experience significantly less precipitation. However, accessing these areas can be challenging due to the hazardous road conditions caused by the rain. One of the greatest advantages of travelling to Nepal during the monsoon season is that tourist numbers are low. Tourists who visit during this period can relish the tranquil ambiance and truly immerse themselves in the beauty of Nepal. Pankaj Pradhananga from Fours Seasons Tours believes that this presents a fantastic opportunity to attract high-budget tourists. The monsoon rain typically begins in mid-June and continues until mid-September in most regions of Nepal.

The weather during this time has varying effects on touring activities, depending on the specific activities and altitude. While the arrival of monsoon clouds leads to frequent cloud cover, it does not necessarily mean continuous rainfall throughout the day. Despite the monsoon, you can't rule out the opportunity to sight Himalayan peaks on a clear day. Or take a trans-Himalayan trip to Mustang, the rain shadow region of Nepal which offers blue sky and traditional Tibetan culture. There is also guaranteed Everest sightseeing flights leaving every day from Kathmandu or a chartered Helicopter trip, which travel agent like Pradhanaga opine can be an experience of a lifetime. Moreover, despite the wet monsoon season, there are plenty of exciting activities and opportunities for socialising in Nepal for those who enjoy the rain. Raj Gyawali and his team at Social Tours take advantage of the monsoon season by targeting foreign visitors interested in participating in the traditional rice plantation festival held in Ashar. "We have been organising these events for years, and foreigners thoroughly enjoy participating," Gyawali explains. During the monsoon, activities such as Shamanism and painting are offered. Additionally, visitors can experience Gaijatra or simply come to witness the rain, particularly those from the Gulf region, Gyawali adds. When the monsoon in Nepal starts, the spring, the main tourism season, comes to an end. Thus, the movement of tourists in the country declines. The number starts to climb as the Autumn season begins in September. According to data provided by the Department of Tourism, Nepal welcomed 1,531 tourists in May 2021, which declined to 1,187 in June. However, there was a significant increase in September, with arrivals reaching 9,907, marking an eight-fold rise. Similarly, in May 2022, tourist arrivals surged to 53,608, but dropped to 46,957 in June. The numbers further declined to their lowest points in July (44,462) and August (41,304). However, tourist arrivals began to rise again from September (58,314). This year, Nepal recorded 77,703 tourist arrivals in May. However, it is expected that the numbers for June, July, and August will follow the usual pattern of decline seen in previous years.

Like other tourism businesses, hotels have low occupancy during the monsoon. During this time of the year, when it's rainy, Indians and a few Europeans travel to Nepal. “But this year, due to new regulations on visas towards Kailash Mansarovar in China, we experienced a drop in Indian arrivals,” said Saurapani Shahi of Aloft Kathmandu Hotel. Aloft Kathmandu Hotel is seeing a decent occupancy at the moment. Back in 2019, when the country was preparing for the Visit Nepal 2020 campaign, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) had announced to capitalise on the off-season tourism activities. Deepak Raj Joshi, the then CEO of NTB, had said at that time that the NTB was focused on bringing tourists from Middle East countries with the theme Romantic Monsoon. However, four years later, with a new leadership at the NTB, it seems that the plans for promoting monsoon tourism have not progressed significantly. Tourism entrepreneurs believe that effective communication, promotion, and image marketing are crucial for establishing Nepal as a monsoon destination. “Unfortunately, there is a significant lack in this aspect. The need of the hour is for the tourism industry to collaborate closely with the NTB to develop a comprehensive strategy. A clear and well-defined strategy should be formulated and targeted markets should be promoted accordingly. Sadly, it appears that this essential collaboration and strategy development may not occur,” said Gyawali.

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