Saturday, May 18, 2013

Political bickering grounds national flag carrier

Frequent political bickering has hit the national flag carrier hard, making it unable to compete in either international or domestic routes.
"The smooth operations of Nepal Airlines Corporation (NAC) has been hurt due to regular political bickering," said minister for culture, tourism and civil aviation Ram Kumar Shrestha speaking at an interaction here in the Valley today.
The ailing national flag carrier has been operating its two age-old Boeings — of which one has to be sent for C Check and casual maintenance alternatively leaving only one Boeing for operation that forces it to reduce its routes frequently — for international flights, whereas it is fast losing its market share in the domestic sector too.
Without adequate number of aircraft, NAC has been not only unable to compete with around two dozen international airlines flying to Nepal but is also losing its market share to them.
Likewise, NAC had been flying to more than 25 destinations inside the country but with only two aircraft left, after the crash of its Twin Otter last Thursday at Jomsom airport, the corporation has no choice but to reduce domestic flights too.
Like other government enterprises, NAC has fallen victim to frequent political interference, he said, adding that neither could it add any aircraft for international routes nor domestic routes, losing its market share, where at one time it had a monopoly. "From the delay in purchasing aircraft for NAC to appointing a chief executive at Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), politicisation of government enterprises has hit the tourism sector hard."
However, the former bureaucrat turned minister said that he would not play a waiting game. "If Nepal Tourism Board fails to reach any conclusion to appoint a chief executive, I will take the decision myself," Shrestha added. The longer it takes to appoint a chief at NTB and purchase aircraft for NAC, the fewer will be the tourist inflow in the country, he added.
In recent months, tourist arrivals have seen a continuous drop, due to lack of effective tourism promotion and aircraft with the national flag carrier. Visitor arrivals in April dropped by 8.9 per cent compared to the same month last year, according to NTB.
Shrestha also slammed trade unionism for destroying the tourism industry.
According to him, he will expedite the construction of the Pokhara regional international airport, development of Lumbini area, purchase of aircraft for national flag carrier and appointment of chief executive at NTB.
Despite the huge potential in the tourism sector, the country has not been able to market it due to lack of vision and investment, the minister said.
Joint secretary at the ministry Purnachandra Bhattarai, on the occasion, said that the government has completed preparations for the Diamond Jubilee celebration of the first ascent of Mt Everest on May 29. "The Himalayas are a prominent tourist destination and we must promote them to benefit," he added.
Tourism entrepreneur Ang Tshering Sherpa urged the government to expedite tourism marketing. "The government and political parties have not yet recognised the importance of tourism," he added. Likewise, tourism entrepreneur Ram Sharan Thapaliya blamed political parties and their sister organisations for forced donation drives that had diverted tourists from Nepal.

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