The priority so far in Nepal is to keep the citizens safe and prevent the spread of infection. The government and the concerned bodies seem to be working hard for that. However, there are also complaints of ineffective work and regulation.
It is an epidemic and will not last forever. Immediate vaccines and effective drugs are discovered. Therefore, the idea that one should look for an alternative to lockdown and return to a regular routine of life is gaining strength. Some middle and low income families are more worried about starvation than coronation, which is also true. Survival with relief and assistance is only ten days a week, no donor can give a month's worth of assistance to a large number of people. Therefore, the governments of all the three levels of Nepal should coordinate with each other and look at the situation in work, trade, travel, etc. For that, some new rules and social distance can be debated.
A big problem for the workers of the trekking sector
While our daily routine is moving towards normalcy, construction workers, transport workers, industrial workers can return to the old rhythm in a short time. As the number of domestic tourists increases, workers in restaurants, hotels and restaurants will also become busy. The manpower working in the trekking and mountaineering sector will be most affected. First of all, the traditional resource countries (US, UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Japan) that come to Nepal for trekking and climbing are themselves highly affected by Corona. It takes some time for these countries to become financially strained.
On the one hand, the current epidemic will reduce the purchasing power of our potential visitors as poverty will increase in those countries on average, and on the other hand, due to Corona, organizations like WHO, UNWTO, NTB will implement new rules in the next few years. For example, new standards for hotels and guesthouses make travel more expensive because of the need to present a health check before arriving and returning home, the small number of passengers on board ships and buses, traveling in small groups and maintaining certain distances. Nepal is still one of the most expensive countries in terms of shipping and car rental.
Domestic tourists do not use guides and porters, so it is certain that mountain tourism workers will be unemployed for the next few years.
What are the options?
At present, the federal government and the state governments are preparing to bring the budget for the fiscal year 2077/78. The tourism business associations have reached out to the Finance Minister and the Tourism Minister with demands including relief package in the budget and discount on bank interest. Even if the demands of the businessmen include the demands of the workers to some extent, it is up to the trade unions or trade unions to speak on this issue. In view of the current dire situation, no trade union leader has come to the concerned minister in a delegation.
Mountain tourism workers are basically unprofessional, unskilled or semi-skilled manpower for other professions. Therefore, there is no alternative for the survival stage to engage in other employment oriented work. Therefore, the following points have been presented for discussion.
1. Concessional agricultural loans: Organic farming, fruits, animal husbandry and fisheries should be encouraged by taking the advice of experts and keeping the certificate as collateral.
2. Construction and Sanitation: Mountain tourism workers who do not want to bear the burden of debt but do not support their families without doing any work should be engaged in construction of new footpaths, cleaning of old footpaths, cleaning and beautification of heritage areas. Nepal Mountaineering Association and TAAN as well as Tourism Workers Union should coordinate.
3. Applying in the scheme of national pride: the perfect way to provide employment to unskilled workers. Bhutan has recently mobilized its tourism-related manpower to plant trees and beautify national highways, roadsides, and greenery and beautification, for example.
4. The state should create an environment where the manpower of the mountain tourism sector can support themselves and their dependent families by doing something in the country for about two years now. If this manpower is foreign, where will we bring skilled manpower overnight when it is needed tomorrow?
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Member of Trekking Agency's Association of Nepal
Member of Nepal Mountaineering Association