Cultural diversity in Eastern Nepal is the only “resource and strength” for the development of rural tourism there in near future much on the lines of Darjeeling and Sikkim, the two places that fall under the same Himalayan landscape, tourism experts have said.

Addressing a three-day East Tourism Mart-2018, which was held in Dharan in East Nepal from 7 June, keynote speaker and tourism expert Raj Basu, who represented north Bengal, said: “The UPS of tourism in Nepal is mountains and heritage. The world knows about Nepal for its pilgrimage and adventure tourism. But we have nothing in Eastern Nepal. Significantly, we have one strength in Eastern Nepal, and that is cultural diversity. This is our strength to bring in development in rural tourism like in the Indian part in the Himalayan landscape, as there are people belonging to different communities like the Dhimal, Sherpa, Rai, Limboo, Gurung and others, (just like in Darjeeling and Sikkim).”

“Nepal and we, in the Himalayan belt in eastern India, share the same cultural diversity. But significantly, tourists throng Darjeeling and Sikkim after they arrive at the Bagdogra Airport and at the New Jalpaiguri Railway station in Siliguri, there are no tourists who are interested in visiting Nepal. This fact should be looked into,” Mr Basu said.

Expressing helplessness after having failed to guide tourists in visiting Eastern Nepal in the last 11 years, Mr Basu directly approached the chief minister of Province-1 in Nepal, Sherdhan Rai, to formulate policies to promote tourism in his province in East Nepal.

He also requested him to exempt Indian cars, including luxury ones, from taxes for at least two years to increase the tourist flow and to generate employment for youths in Nepal.

Mr Basu, who is the convener of the Association of Conservation and Tourism (ACT), also urged the Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) to immediately prepare a brochure, showcasing category-wise multiple activities, highlighting different spots, from Koshi River to Mechi River.

Citing the present situation of tourism in Darjeeling, and showcasing the iconic Land Rovers, Mr Basu suggested his Nepali counterparts to introduce Land Rover services from Ilam to Sandakpur, similar to the one on the Indian part on the popular trekking route from Maney Bhanjyang to Sandakphu.

Citing another example of rural tourism development in Kerala, he urged youths, who are working in different countries to earn money, to invest their hard-earned cash in the development of rural tourism and home-stay concepts. He further recalled human-elephant conflict in Nepal and serial deaths of elephants at Bahundangi in Eastern Nepal earlier.

According to him, this issue was the first step in developing eco-tourism after organising several awareness programmes. He also urged the Nepal administration to keep the corridors clean and control traffic and human rush at Kakarvitta, the main entrance to Eastern Nepal from Panitanki in Siliguri by road.