This is a response on Kishor Chitrakar’s article: Political Turbulence and Destination Resilience: A Case Study of the Struggle of the Tourism Industry of Nepal amidst Political Instability
I have read Kishor Chitrakar’s article “Political Turbulence and Destination Resilience” and would like to respond on a few points. The first year mentioned in Kishor’s paper is 1990. Coincidence or not, that was the first year I visited Nepal with the objective to climb Mount Everest. I reached the summit on 7th October 1990 and became the first Dutch national to do so.
The summit of Mount Everest, but much more my first visit to Nepal changed my life and I have been back over 75 times since that first year. The people of Nepal, the mountains, climbing and trekking, almost 28 years of experiences: Nepal was and is an integral part of my life.
However, were all the experiences in Nepal 100% positive? Not at all I must admit. In Kishor’s paper we read about the various issues that have led to political instability. I was there when Nepal took its first very tentative steps towards democracy, steps also towards Maoist uprising.
I have never personally witnessed any killings, but the situation in the country became that gloomy that I could truly understand why fewer and fewer Westerners travelled to the Himalayan Kingdom. It was a huge blow to me personally, because I had already started in the tourism industry by then….. And yet, we still succeeded in convincing people to travel to Nepal and tourism did not fade away totally. It was a remarkable period. Most of the people travelling, trekking and climbing in the country still had a wonderful experience,as long as they stayed away from the Far West of the country.
Maybe the most frantic period during the Maoist uprising was the period after the royal massacre, the 1st of June in 2001 (NB: Not 2002 as is written in Kishor’s paper…). The apogee was in 2006 when the crowd pulled up at the royal palace to finally depose the King, then the sole executor of power.
This all said, one can be happy for Nepal that during the long period of Maoist insurgency, until reinstatement of parliament in 2006, news only spread via ‘old school’ channels. Had social media been available at that time, I am sure the impact would have been hugely negative.
Nepal clearly showed resilience, and the very important tourist numbers rose quickly. There were still political upheavals, but, in times of growing use of social media in Nepal, these upheavals never appeared as bad as during the insurgency. In fact, I think that the growing use of social media, the internet and smartphones drew more positive attention to the unique Himalayan Federal Democratic Republic Nepal.
In his paper, Kishor mentions the necessity for co-operation between government, the tourism industry, political organisations and the media to give an accurate picture of the destination to prospective tourists. However, if a country experiences a period in which 10,000-15,000 inhabit ants are killed, no social media could send out a positive message and have this accepted as ‘the accurate picture’ by prospective tourists. Result: a huge drop in tourist numbers.
We have noticed a fact, described in Kishor’s paper, that communication via social media after natural disasters, can indeed help a country. This was certainly the fact after the earthquakes in 2015. Positive communication also helped during the blockade shortly after the earthquakes. People still travelled to Nepal and positive news saw tourist numbers grow back rapidly only a little more than a year after the earthquakes.
I am not a researcher, but I think the resilience, or not, of a tourist destination is linked to the nature of disaster, more than to co-ordinated communication about the disaster. The negative impact of extremist killings in, for instance, Pakistan is sort of proof of my opinion. Lots of Pakistani friends want us to encourage tourists to return to their country in large numbers. Unfortunately, this is not possible now, as signs of the extremist turmoil are spread via internet and social media. No government nor tourist organisation can change this reality at present.
We can see the opposite in the quite positive return of tourism to the Indonesian archipelago after a tsunami. Tsunamis cause lots of casualties, but still the nature of the disaster is totally different compared to killings during an insurgency or extremist attacks on innocent citizens.
To me it all seems pretty clear, OK, without scientific background: Communication after disasters to point out the accurate picture: yes, for sure this makes sense. Communication after a natural disaster, will contribute to a totally different level of resilience than communication after a terrorist attack.