Nepal: Tourists want public toilets, garbage bins and a hassle-free airport—not a week-long tourism extravaganza

Anup Ojha

KATHMANDU (THE KATHMANDU POST/ANN) – Kathmandu Metropolitan City has announced a week-long campaign to supplement Visit Nepal 2020, but tourists are more concerned about basic amenities.

As the government on Wednesday inaugurated the Visit Nepal 2020, Kathmandu Metropolitan City announced its own efforts to support the national tourism campaign. The city has allocated RS2 million for a week-long campaign of cultural shows, concerts and food festivals, according to Ishwor Man Dangol, spokesperson for metropolis.

“We are doing the campaign to inform people and bring more tourists to the country,” said Dangol. “This is an awareness programme.”

Locals, however, questioned the rationale behind conducting tourism awareness programmes in the city, instead of abroad, while tourists were more concerned about basic urban amenities – public toilets, garbage cans and proper public transport.

“Nepal is really beautiful but I have an unpleasant experience every time I visit toilets,” said Namke Letder, a visitor from the Netherlands. “They are not clean and there is no water.”

The Visit Nepal 2020 campaign makes little sense until the government puts necessary infrastructure in proper order, tourism experts say. PHOTO: THE KATHMANDU POST

Public toilets are few and far between, even in major tourist destinations like the World Heritage Sites. Kathmandu Durbar Square has two tourist lavatories, there is one in Patan Durbar Square and one in Swayambhu but not a single toilet for tourists in Pashupati.

Letder, who came to Kathmandu a week ago with her friends, also pointed out the amount of litter on the streets.

“It’s hard to find a dustbin to dispose of garbage,” Letder told the Post in Swayambhu. “People just throw garbage on the roads.”

The lack of toilets and trashcans is a perpetual problem for Kathmandu citizens, and instead of addressing these basic issues, the city is planning to spend millions on tourism promotion, said locals.

“They are having a grand celebration to welcome tourists, but look at the traffic here,” said 26-year-old Karan Lama, a chef at a restaurant in Kalanki. “When there are no footpaths to walk on and the traffic is so bad, how will tourists enjoy their stay in the city?”

The Kathmandu valley might host seven World Heritage Sites but for tourist guides, it is getting difficult to ignore all of the city’s glaring flaws.

According to Padam Shrestha, who has been working as a city guide for the past 18 years, the government’s grand celebration on Wednesday did not make much sense.

“We are unofficial tourism ambassadors but it’s getting more difficult to justify just how bad the state of necessary infrastructures is,” said Shrestha. “It’s getting more difficult for us to explain why foreigners should choose (to visit) this city.”

Infrastructure problems begin the very minute tourists land in Kathmandu – with the dismal state of the airport. There are numerous issues with Nepal’s only international airport, including overcrowding, a lack of functioning machines, a lack of officials to issue visas and an interior that resembles a bus station more than an international airport.

“Nepal is culturally rich and the people are friendly,” said Javier, a visitor from the United States who did not provide his last name. “But if the government could make the international airport hassle-free, that would be great.”